Baguio out, Tacloban in

Baguio out, Tacloban in

Jun 10, 2024, 12:32 AM
Diego S. Cagahastian

Diego S. Cagahastian


Commercial local aviation and tourism have a working symbiotic relationship that links one to the other like an umbilical cord. To be vibrant and enjoying growth, both have to work with each other under a system of full cooperation.

During the 2020 Covid-19 scare, both air travel and tourism suffered badly as people were forced to stay home, jobs were lost and the whole economy was in the doldrums.

Now, both industries as thriving.

In fact, new things are happening in the local tourism industry—showing the emerging tourist behavior and the impact it has on flight schedules of local airlines.

Come July 1, 2024, Philippine Airlines (PAL) will cease to offer the Cebu-Baguio-Cebu route. This means travelers from Central Visayas who wanted to take a vacation or a respite from the hot weather down south will have to go to Manila or Clark first before continuing their journey by land to Baguio City. Businessmen who have things to do in both cities or regions are also affected, along with ordinary passengers with personal reasons for travel.

Lucio Tan’s PAL, the nation’s flag carrier, called the change as “routine network adjustments.” Reports however said that the halting of the flights is attributed to poor passenger traffic between Cebu and Baguio, despite the fact that these two cities are among the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. The travelers’ options now are to make the trip by sea or by land, unless they have a private plane to use.

Come to think of it, Philippine Airlines will not decide to close the route if it is making money. The airline launched its Cebu-Baguio flights in December 2022. Passengers are flown using the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Series 400 NG aircraft, a small propeller-type plane.

“Passengers of the cancelled flight Cebu-Baguio-Cebu will be provided the necessary assistance. We remain supportive of local government’s initiatives in promoting Baguio as a destination,” the flag carrier said.

Air travel from Cebu to Baguio takes an hour and 45 minutes on average. That is of course a lot more comfortable than embarking on a long drive that would take the whole 24 hours or more. The better option is to take the flight to Manila or Clark and then take the bus to Baguio.

From Central Visayas we go to Eastern Visayas and inquire on the status of air travel in Tacloban City.

Last May 13, I went to the PAL ticket office in Ali Mall, Cubao to buy a ticket for Tacloban but the man at the counter said the next available seat is still on May 22 yet. Imagine a waiting time of 9 days just to go to Tacloban via PAL? Plane tickets to Tacloban, and thus to the rest of Eastern Visayas, are so rare that they might be considered pricey.

The Cebu Pacific ticketing office is more accessible, with just a week’s waiting time and probably a little cheaper than PAL.

The latest report says low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is preparing to host more flights to Tacloban City. The trips will emanate from two of the biggest airports: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

Tacloban is fast becoming an important gateway not only to Eastern Visayas, but also in the whole of central Philippines.

NAIA will have 48 weekly flights to Tacloban, up from the current 41.

Two more flights will be added to the Cebu-Tacloban-Cebu route, increasing the existing 17 weekly flights.

“We have been monitoring that there is always a high load for Tacloban [year-round] — to the point that even our team finds it difficult to book,” Carmina Romero, director for corporate communications at Cebu Pacific, said. She added that bookings have always been full, even before the city’s runway began undergoing repairs.

Flight schedules at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban have been limited since May 2 due to the runway asphalt overlay project. The airport’s operating hours were shortened to 6 a.m. to 6.p.m. daily, affecting around 12 flights to and from Manila.

Tacloban has become a booming city again in just a few years after it was devastated by typhoon Yolanda. It is in fact the fastest-growing city in the region. It has good hotels such as the Summit Hotel and the Go Hotel, near Robinsons, but these two are always fully booked. Another good hotel is Hotel de Fides along the highway.

Good accommodations are basic in the game of enticing tourists to your city, and Tacloban is doing it right in this area.

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