Philippine Airlines (PAL) is starting direct, non-stop, four-times weekly flights between Manila and New Delhi starting April and could be the stimulus required to trigger growth from the burgeoning Indian market. Current flight options linking both countries entail stopovers, including Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, Thai Airways via Bangkok, and the more expensive option of Singapore Airlines via Singapore. The other airlines interested in linking major Indian cities with Manila are Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines, but no plans have concretised yet.
Lack of direct connectivity as well as stopovers has deterred growth although India has already surpassed Germany as the Philippines’ 12th largest market. In the January-October 2018 period, Indian arrivals grew 14 per cent year-on-year.
Jaime Bautista, PAL president and chief operating officer, explained that resuming flights to India after five years and launching new routes to Hanoi and Phnom Penh, is meant to carry travellers to these countries from the US and Canada where it has 43 weekly flights to six destinations. “We will leverage Manila’s geographical location as an ideal stopover point for people flying to South-east and South Asia from the East and West Coasts of North America,” Bautista said. The previous PAL flight was routed visa Bangkok and was an expensive option before it was withdrawn.
Although the New Delhi flight is expected to boost travel to the Philippines, PAL’s four-times weekly Manila-Hanoi flights starting 31 March and five times weekly Manila-Phnom Penh flights beginning April are likely to enhance outbound travel to these two new destinations.
The Philippine travel trade has been lobbying for a direct flight for a long time. Arjun Shroff, president, Shroff Travel Centre, Manila said: “PAL’s Manila-New Delhi service is a big win for the travel trade. There is great interest in several destinations in Philippines from Indian companies for meetings and incentives and we have seen during road shows and trade events that Indian tour operators are only deterred by the lack of connectivity. Now that obstacle has been removed although a flight to Mumbai will also be helpful”.