DAVAO CITY — The Cathay Pacific Group, through its regional airline Cathay Dragon, flew in its maiden direct flight from Hong Kong to Davao on Oct. 28 with the goal of developing the service as the main Mindanao link for the long haul.
“The strategy is, let’s make Davao work, we know that some airlines have come and gone, we don’t want to do that. Focus on that, and that will take time, and then we’ll see (about other Mindanao destinations),” Cathay Pacific Country Manager Rob Bradshaw told BusinessWorld yesterday on the sidelines of a press briefing.
Flights using an A320 plane are initially on a four-times-a-week frequency, but Mr. Shaw said they are already working out a fifth flight for the “Christmas period” from early December to January.
Mr. Shaw noted there is strong passenger traffic, mainly from balikbayans (returning Filipinos). Cathay Pacific is targeting the tourist-business markets as well as the overseas Filipino migrants and workers from Mindanao who can use Hong Kong as a hub with Cathay Pacific’s network of more than 200 international destinations.
“A healthy mix is an equal mix of both. We will actively seek to grow the tourism sector and business sector, and the overseas foreign workers sector is also there,” Mr. Shaw said.
Davao City Vice-Mayor Bernard Al-ag, for his part, said the local government is ready to assist to ensure the sustainability of the new international route.
“It is our goal that we help every investor and businessman in the city, together with the national government, the Department of Transportation, we are here to make sure that your business will work and I am 100% sure that this new endeavor between Cathay Dragon and Davao City will really be sustained,” he said.
Ronald Lam, Cathay Pacific director for commercial and cargo, said Davao has been under consideration for several years, but the recent surge in economic activities in the country’s south has made it ready for a direct service.
Mr. Lam said the cargo business is “another part of the formula” for the flights, particularly for fresh products or perishables from Mindanao, which has a largely agriculture-based economy.
Cathay Pacific now operates more than 70 weekly flights between Hong Kong and four destinations in the Philippines, including Manila, Clark, and Cebu.
Jason C. Magnaye, external affairs head of Aboitiz Power Coal Business Unit, who was among those who took the maiden Davao-Hong Kong flight with his family, said the service opens opportunities for both tourism and trade.
“This is very convenient, especially for those traveling with children and senior citizens,” Mr. Magnaye said in an interview at the Davao International Airport.
“The challenge is for us to be able to bring tourists from Hong Kong to visit Davao. Bringing Davaoeños to Hong Kong does not take a lot of effort, but the more challenging is the inbound, both for tourism and business,” he added. — Marifi S. Jara with a report from Maya M. Padillo