Airlines scale down flights to Boracay

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By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

AS the government limits the number of tourists to Boracay island, some local airlines are looking at other tourist destinations to drive passenger growth this summer.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) issued an April 17 advisory reminding airlines to follow the government’s limit of 6,405 visitors allowed to enter Boracay every day.

“In order to maintain the gains achieved and accomplish further improvements in the rehabilitation of Boracay island, it bears emphasizing that only tourists with confirmed bookings with accredited hotels and other establishments will be allowed to cross the island,” CAB said.

Cebu Pacific had to reduce the frequency of flights to Boracay, which was shut down for six months for rehabilitation, when it reopened last October 2018.

“We don’t have the same number of flights from before Boracay was closed last year. We have scaled down the number of flights to match number of rooms and carrying capacity of the island,” Cebu Pacific Director for Corporate Communications Charo L. Lagamon said in a text message Saturday.

Cebu Pacific currently offers 11 times daily flights to Caticlan from Manila, Cebu and Clark; and twice daily flights to Kalibo from Manila and Cebu. Caticlan and Kalibo are the two gateways to Boracay.

“We had redeployed the frequency from Boracay to other destinations,” Ms. Lagamon added, naming Cebu, Bohol and Puerto Princesa as among the top alternatives for travelers this summer.

AirAsia Philippines President and Chief Executive Officer Dexter M. Comendador said in a text message the carrier also had to cut flights to Boracay because of the limited capacity in the accredited hotels.

“We have less flights to Caticlan now than before it closed,” he said. “Please note that we continued flying to Caticlan and Kalibo despite Boracay closure to help keep the economy alive in that part of Aklan despite our losses. So now we are trying to be more prudent in capacity buildup for a win-win situation.”

To cope, AirAsia Philippines said it is increasing flights to other tourist destinations instead, such as Cebu, Bohol, Davao, Puerto Princesa and other international destinations.

“The Boracay closure gave us a chance to force the introduction of other tourist destinations, especially to the Chinese,” Mr. Comendador said, noting Boracay is a top pick for Chinese visitors.

For Philippine Airlines (PAL), operations in Boracay are still improving despite the government’s stringent rules on tourism.

“By May 1, we are adding a new daily frequency between Manila and Caticlan. This means by that date, we will have 14 flights between Manila and Caticlan (from seven at present),” PAL Spokesperson Cielo C. Villaluna said in a text message.

PAL currently serves 23 flights weekly to Caticlan from Manila, Cebu and Clark; and 21 flights weekly to Kalibo from Manila and Cebu.

“Boracay-focused passengers really prepare and avail of the best buys…and ensure their hotel accommodations… If passengers try out other domestic destinations, it is primarily to explore something new,” she said.

“The pull of Boracay is there. Caticlan is among the best-sellers (for PAL),” Ms. Villaluna added.

Boracay is considered one of the top tourist destinations in the country, which recorded 2.2 million tourists in 2017.

On Monday, Scoot, the low-cost airline of the Singapore Airlines Group, announced it will be suspending flights to Kalibo — a gateway to Boracay island.

Reuters reported that Scoot decided to halt services to Kalibo, Lucknow, Quanzhou and Male “due to a combination of weak demand and shortage of aircraft resources.”