PAL, CEB, ANA launch new Phl-Japan routes

By Donnabelle L. Gatdula and Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 29 2014 09:26 AM | Updated as of Mar 29 2014 05:26 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The two biggest Philippine carriers and Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) will simultaneously launch new routes between the two countries in a strong push to draw in more Japanese tourists.

Starting tomorrow, Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Air and ANA, Japan’s largest airline by passengers, will introduce new Philippine-Japan routes that will increase the number of flights to 81 per week from the previous 56.

Flag carrier PAL will add twice daily flights to Tokyo-Haneda, returning the same day, to its existing Tokyo-Narita, Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka routes.

Budget carrier Cebu Air, the operator of the Cebu Pacific brand, will start direct flights from Manila to Narita daily and four times a week to Nagoya, beefing up its daily Manila-Osaka route.

Meanwhile, ANA, which has been operating for three years in the Philippines, will fly to Tokyo-Haneda daily to complement its existing service between Manila and Tokyo-Narita. ANA will also be deploying the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, one of the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, to the Philippines.

The additional routes and the participation of the major carriers prompted the Department of Tourism (DOT) to expect a 20- percent growth in the number of Japanese tourists going to the Philippines this year.

Japan was the country’s third biggest source market for tourists in 2013 after South Korea and the United States. A total of 433,705 Japanese visitors came to the country, comprising 9.28 percent of international visitor arrivals for the year.

Over 700 Japanese companies have set up facilities in various economic zones in the Philippines, making Japan one of the biggest investors in the country with over P15 billion worth of investments in the first nine months of 2013.

“The increase in flights is a step forward from the recently concluded re-negotiation of the Japan-Philippines air services agreement, which is seen to open gates for additional flights between the Philippines and various points in Japan such as Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Sapporo, Okinawa, Ibaraki, Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda. The fun on the Philippines can now be experienced by more tourists from Japan,” Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said.

Candice Iyog, vice president for marketing and distribution at Cebu Pacific, said Japan has the potential to be as big as South Korea in terms of tourist arrivals.

The Philippines remains a popular holiday destination for Japanese tourists, the third biggest foreign group, while 90,000 Filipinos visited Japan last year.

On the other hand, South Korea remained the major source of tourists last year with 1.2 million arrivals.

“With Cebu Pacific’s trademark lowest fares, travellers from Japan now have Tokyo , Nagoya , and Osaka as jump-off points when exploring the Philippines ’ world-renowned beach and diving destinations. This is very much in line with the government’s tourism agenda, and the airline’s commitment to boost Philippine tourism,” she said.

Iyog said they expect to further widen their market in Japan as they have yet to tap the Haneda gateway.

PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said in a statement that the new route presents limitless opportunities to further develop trade and tourism between the Philippines and Japan .

"With this service, and what we already have, we are providing both our Japanese and Filipino customers the benefit of choice in terms of which gateway best suits their travel itinerary,” Ang stressed.

“As the operator of the Philippines ’ flag carrier, we are deeply honored to serve as a bridge by which tourism and business between our two countries can grow,” he added.

The Philippines and Japan inked a new air service agreement in September last year, increasing the number of flights and allowing unlimited flights to points outside Manila and Haneda.

The new agreement increased the number of flights between Manila and Narita to a total maximum 400 per week from the previous 119 and allowed 14 flights per week between Manila and Haneda as well as unlimited air traffic rights between points in the Philippines except Manila and points in Japan except Haneda.