Iloilo-Caticlan, Iloilo-Hongkong routes mulled
A request for an Iloilo-Caticlan-Iloilo airline route was brought up by Ben Jimena, Iloilo City tourism officer before the management of Philippine Airlines during a press conference of the latter held yesterday at the Iloilo Grand Hotel. "We have written PAL about this," Jimena said.
Jaime Bautista, president of PAL said that the company wants to operate such route but explained there is a congestion in Caticlan, Aklan. Caticlan is the jump-off point to the famed Boracay Island, which is just 15 minutes ferry ride away. "Caticlan Airport is one of the busiest airports in the country. Cebu Pacific has eight flights, and Asian Spirit and Sea Air have 16 flights each in this airport. Practically, an aircraft leaves every 10 minutes," he said. He added that for safety considerations, the Air Transportation Office (ATO) does not want to add more flights.
"Caticlan Airport is a visual airport. We proposed that ATO install a navigation equipment. Also, we urged them to give us enough slots. If they do these, we'll consider flying the Iloilo-Caticlan-Iloilo route," Bautista said.
At present, PAL's smallest aircraft is the Q400 and couldn't land in Caticlan because of its short runway. The said aircraft services the Iloilo-Cebu flights.
If one travels from Iloilo to Caticlan by land, it would take five to six hours. If there's a direct flight, travel time would go down to 20 minutes.
Also brought to PAL's attention is the possibility of having a direct flight from Iloilo to Hongkong, to which Bautista replied that there isn't much traffic to warrant such possibility yet.
However, Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog said that in Western Visayas alone, there is a demand for flights to Hongkong. "Don't look at the traffic alone. People know that there is no flight from Iloilo to Hongkong to take, that's why. If you open such route, more people will go to Western Visayas instead of taking their Hongkong flight from Cebu," he added. Presently, PAL has a Cebu-Hongkong flight.
With this, Bautista suggested that the local tourism association of Iloilo mount a charter flight and its Airbus 320, can ferry 150 passengers. The price will be almost the same as the Cebu-Hongkong route, he said.
"For a flight to be attractive, we have to mount three a week. Otherwise, passengers will have to stay in the airport longer," Bautista said.
In another development, Bautista said that PAL has never failed to include Iloilo City in its promotions despite the fact that Jimena said that "Iloilo has been left out." "Iloilo is part of our Palakbayan Tours which we are selling in the United States. This is a promotion that we sell to foreigners going to Iloio. We are also promoting Dinagyang and other festivals."