AIRASIA PHILIPPINES is finally launching its first direct flight from the Philippines to Japan in July, as it aims to tap the growing market for Filipino travelers visiting the East Asian country.

The budget carrier said in a statement it will start offering daily services from Manila to Osaka on July 1.

“Being able to travel directly and affordably to Osaka is fantastic news for Filipinos and we’re confident this new route will serve as a gateway for guests to connect to other popular destinations in Japan such as Kyoto and Nara,” AirAsia Philippines President and Chief Executive Officer Dexter M. Comendador said in the statement.

The flight will depart Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 8:30 a.m. every day and arrive at 1:15 p.m. at the Kansai International Airport. The return flight will leave Osaka at 1:50 p.m. every day and land at NAIA at 4:55 p.m.

“This international route will contribute to the government’s target of 8.2 million visitors this year,” Mr. Comendador added.

AirAsia has long been planning to launch a direct flight to Japan as it started to become a popular tourist destination for Filipinos. Airport slot allocation became its problem, but Mr. Comendador said in late 2017 they have earned entitlements for Osaka already and initially planned to launch the flights by second half of 2018.

“The launch of direct flights between the Philippines and Japan is a milestone occasion, and we’re excited to connect our capital, Manila with Osaka,” the AirAsia Philippines chief executive said.

Based on data from the Department of Tourism, Japan is the fourth biggest market of tourists to the Philippines, growing 7.3% to 485,121 Japanese travelers in the country from January to September 2018.

Aside from Osaka, AirAsia also offers flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok, Bali, Seoul, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau and Ho Chi Minh City. — Denise A. Valdez