Budget flights strengthen families, says airport exec
DAGUPAN CITY—Budget flights are strengthening marriages and relationships as air travel has become more affordable to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, an airport official said.
Victor Jose Luciano, Clark International Airport Corp. president and chief executive officer, said their interviews with OFWs passing through Clark International Airport in Pampanga showed that many of them have been returning to the Philippines for vacations several times in a year due to cheaper flights.
“Before, they can afford to go home maybe once a year. Now, they can go home five times a year. It also became the other way around, with their families visiting them in their places of work abroad. You multiply that and one traveler becomes six travelers,” he said.
“This transformation is happening because of aviation development in the country and you can multiply that in terms of economic activities because budget travel has become affordable for everybody,” Luciano told delegates of the 21st North Luzon Area Business Conference here on Friday.
He said the Clark airport offers the most number of budget airlines in the country, as compared to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila and Mactan Cebu International Airport in Cebu.
From the Clark airport, passengers can take international flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Incheon, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Shanghai and Singapore.
Flights to Cebu, Davao, Kalibo and Puerto Princesa are also available at Clark.
“What is the significance of this? When Malaysia started budget flights 10 years ago, only 3 percent of the population could afford to travel. But with the coming of the budget flights, now 40 percent of the population can afford to travel, and Malaysia has population of 27 million,” he said.
“You can imagine what happens in the Philippines with the expected 100 million population in five years. [If 1 percent] can afford to travel, that’s a million passengers. So the busiest areas next to shopping malls would be the airports,” he added.
Luciano said the growth of the Clark airport, in terms of passenger traffic, has always been an upward trajectory since it started operations in 2003.
He said from 14,000 passengers in 2003, the Clark airport in 2011 had accommodated 706,000 passengers.
Luciano said the Clark airport grows despite the turbulence in the aviation industry. International airports, he said, are growing at an annual rate of 3 percent while in Asia, the growth is about 6 percent.
“The biggest growth was posted by the United States, which grew by 30 percent in a year. But the Clark airport this year grew by 63 percent,” he said.
“The figures in first eight months of 2012 already exceeded the figures of 2011. So I apologize that in November and December, we will be congested. Our terminal keeps on expanding but still we can’t cope. So we plan to put up an air-conditioned tent [to accommodate more passengers],” Luciano said.
From January to August this year, 806,574 passengers used the Clark airport, up from 495,717 passengers recorded in the same period last year. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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