By Arra B. Francia, Senior Reporter
DUBAI-BASED carrier Emirates Airline looks to add at least three more flights a week from Manila in the future, in a bid to further grow passenger volumes as its local operations nears full capacity.
The airline currently services 25 flights in the country, 18 of which depart from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The rest are circular flights from Cebu and Clark.
“We have requested for at least three more flights a week. We would like to move to 21 (in Manila) as starters,” Emirates Country Manager for the Philippines Sathish Sethi said in a roundtable discussion in Taguig Thursday.
Mr. Sethi said Emirates carried more than one million passengers in and out of the Philippines in 2018 alone, 15% higher year on year. He added that seat load factor — the number of passengers on a flight divided by the number of available seats — is already around mid-90%.
“Our immediate request is for more frequencies. Our loads are pretty high. Our seat factors are running in mid-90s, a year-round average, which means little room for growth,” he said.
The growth in 2018 mostly came from the number of flights going to Dubai, given the large population of overseas Filipino workers in the area. Emirates also saw growth in the number of passengers heading to European destinations such as Portugal, Spain, and Italy via Dubai international airport.
Mr. Sethi said they are requesting to resume air services talks between the United Arab Emirates government and the Philippines in order to allow them to expand flights here.
“There are no commitments right now, but there are very healthy discussions going on with the entire Department of Transportation and CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) have been very supportive of our operations,” Mr. Sethi said.
Emirates’ technical team is also talking with the DoTr and CAB to see what needs to be done at the NAIA so the gateway can accommodate its Airbus 380 (A380) aircraft.
The A380 is considered the largest commercial passenger aircraft in the world, as it can accommodate up to 500 passengers. Emirates first flew the A380 from Dubai to the Philippines in 2014 to test whether NAIA can service the jumbo jet.
“A380 has been the pillar of our fleet, we have a strong technical team that looks at all the safety standards. We have flown an A380 once here… It’s not impossible, but we understand that there are concerns over technical aspects,” Mr. Sethi said.
Without room for further expansion at its current capacity, Mr. Sethi said passenger volumes in the airline are unlikely to increase by a large percentage.
“It will have to be additional capacity. Not just for our growth…Our belief is that tourism cannot grow without growth in aviation,” Mr. Sethi said, citing how most tourists enter the country via flights because of its archipelagic nature.