TAIPEI, Taiwan - Philippine low cost carrier AirAsia Inc. on Sunday successfully launched the only flight from Clark International Airport to Taiwan.
This comes a day after the airline started daily flights from Clark to Singapore.
With the new route, AirAsia chief executive officer Marianne "Maan" Hontiveros said with the airline is targeting Taiwanese tourists and businessmen, as well as Filipinos who are working in Singapore and Taiwan.
Based on data from the Philippine Embassy, there are more than 100,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan.
"Thirty-five percent (of OFWs) come from northern and central Luzon. They are underserved with poor connectivity and there's difficulty in going to NAIA, as well as flights delays in NAIA. The convenience of Clark is unparalleled. The newest route provides better service for OFWs, tourists and businessmen from Taiwan and China who want to come to the Philippines for business and travel with connectivity to Kalibo and Davao," she said at the launch event at the Clark International Airport on Sunday morning.
Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office representative Raymond Wang expressed hope the new flights will increase tourism between both countries.
"We acknowledge that launching of AirAsia's Taipei-Clark route is a significant progress in two countries' economic and tourism relations," Wang said.
Taiwan is currently the country’s fifth largest source of tourists, with nearly 200,000 visiting the Philippines in the first 10 months of the year.
However, Wang said the Philippines should work to improve its tourism infrastructure in order to make it more attractive for Taiwanese tourists.
"Infrastructure-wise, more advanced structures for tourists and travel facilities would attract more tourists from Taiwan. And with the new flights, we can attract more tourists to the Philippines," Wang said.
More flights next year
AirAsia's first flight to Taiwan's capital arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on Sunday afternoon, welcomed with a spray of water from fire engines on the runway.
AirAsia is the only carrier offering four times a week flights, with fights departing Clark at 12:05 p.m. and arriving at Taoyuan airport at 2:00 p.m.
Hontiveros said there are plans to increase the frequency of flights to daily by January.
"Right now there are 4x weekly (flights) but in January this will be expanded to daily. And with our new routes, we can offer connectivity to the other destinations of AirAsia, we have 85 destinations in 24 countries in Asia and Australia," she said.
Department of Tourism - Taiwan director Ireneo Reyes said there are currently 44 flights a week between the Philippines and Taiwan, but these are already running at capacity.
In an interview in Taipei, Reyes said there is a need to increase more flights between the two countries if the Philippines hopes to attract more Taiwanese tourists.
"This year we expect 200,000 Taiwanese tourists to visit the Philippines. We have been increasing at around 5%," Reyes said.
"This (AirAsia) flight is very promising and hopefully we can maintain this at all costs and bring more tourists and OFW traffic. The DOT will be putting all efforts to support this flight."