ETIHAD Airways is expanding its Philippine operations as the United Arab Emirates’ flag carrier cited Asia’s fastest-growing economy as fuelling the growth of its air cargo division.
Etihad president James Hogan said the Philippines is a “very important” market in the region. The airline would mount three daily flights from the existing two to Abu Dhabi from Manila if demand merits such an expansion, he said.
Hogan said the local economy, whose gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.6% in the first half of this year, is a key driver of the airline’s growth.
“In addition to stimulating business and leisure travel, the health of the Philippine economy is underpinning the growth we are seeing in our freight division – Etihad Cargo,” Hogan said.
“Total trade between the UAE and the Philippines reached $2.16 billion last year, creating significant opportunities for belly-hold cargo transportation.”
The Etihad executive said that starting from just four weekly A330-200 flights in 2006, the airline now operates twice-daily services to Manila with a larger Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. “That’s more than threefold growth in just seven years.”
Over the past seven years, Etihad carried more than 2.3 million passengers with an average load factor of 86%, making the Philippine route one of the strongest performers in the airline’s network, Hogan said.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies between Manila and Abu Dhabi twice daily on Etihad Airways-operated flights under a code-sharing agreement.
Hogan said PAL’s entry in the Middle East market would create more opportunities for both airlines, as that region would be the transfer point to Europe.
PAL plans to expand its Middle East operations, starting with Abu Dhabi, followed by Dubai on November 6. The flag carrier also plans to fly to Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia and Doha in Qatar.