MANILA -- Thailand's flag carrier is looking to launch direct flights between Cebu and Bangkok later this year, as it expands its operations in the Philippines, a representative said Saturday.
Polapat Neelabhamorn, Thai Airways general manager for Philippines and Guam, said the company plans to "increase frequency in the Philippines," especially in Manila, citing the rapid rise of Filipino travelers to Thailand annually.
Thailand is seeing an uptick in Filipino travelers visiting the country for leisure, mostly spending on dining and shopping. The Tourism Authority of Thailand reported some 430,000 Filipinos traveled to Thailand in 2018, a 12-percent jump from 2017.
But Neelabhamorn admitted that they are facing some challenges in adding more flights at the Philippine capital's already congested airport.
Currently, Thai Airways has two daily flights between Bangkok and Manila. One full aircraft could carry about 400 passengers daily or 12,000 monthly.
"We plan to have Cebu. We're just waiting for the greenlight," Neelabhamorn told ABS-CBN News at the sidelines of Thai Airways' two-day Travel Fair at SM Megamall, which runs until August 4.
"If we have to fly to Manila and Clark, it's too near. Cebu is another market for me. Davao is in the plan. But we'll just wait for the new terminal to finish first. This terminal, we have a wider aircraft, not more aircraft," he added.
Recently, Thai Airways launched flights to Sendai in Japan, one of the airline's identified "important markets."
"Most of Thai Airways passengers from Manila are leisure travelers who mostly go to Bangkok, domestic Thailand, Indochina, and Europe. We also cater to the ethnic Indian community, flying them mostly to Delhi," said Malu Oclarence-Dueñas, Thai Airways district sales manager for Philippines and Guam.
Earlier, Thailand announced it was shifting its promotion from capital Bangkok to less familiar and untapped "secondary cities" like Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya.
Thai Airways also revealed it has started to do the LGBTQIA+ segment, considered among the big potentials in the untapped market for travel.
"Right now we are recognizing this market as an important and fast growing one and Thai Airways is in full support of them," Dueñas told ABS-CBN News.
"LGBT segment is not just aesthetic tourism. They belong to the leisure market as well," she added.