The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is set to open two airports, one each in Baguio and Borongan cities this December.
The Philippine Airlines (PAL) will launch on Dec. 16 direct flights between to Baguio City and Cebu City, operating four times weekly with convenient morning departures.
PAL recently made a test flight at the Baguio Loakan Airport using a De Havilland Dash 8-400 New Generation aircraft with a seating capacity of 84 passengers.
“Before parang sinasabi natin delikado. Of course iyong haze talaga ay isang challenge iyon. That’s why tiniming natin sa historical data, hindi siya nagkaka-haze, so iyon po between 10 and 11 a.m. clear ang weather sa mountains,” PAL president and chief operating officer Capt. Stanley Ng said.
(We used to say it was dangerous, with the haze posing a challenge But according to historical data, the weather is clear and haze-free in the mountains between 10 and 11 a.m.)
PAL earlier said opening the Baguio route is a homage to the flag carrier’s beginnings. It first flew to Baguio from Manila as a newly incorporated airline on March 15, 1941.
The Loakan Airport was used as a heliport during the 1990 killer earthquake for search and rescue operations and transporting goods.
Airline companies gave up commercial operations in the airport in the 2000s due to costly air fare, safety reasons and lack of demand.
“However, with the advancement of technology sa modern aircraft, meron na po tayo GPS ‘di ba? So maiga-guide natin ang eroplano. Alam natin at certain point anong altitude dapat tayo, so safe tayo. In terms of length of the runway, enough naman siya sa turboprop [aircraft],” Ng added.
(We have GPS now, so we safely guide airplanes, and we know which altitudes are safe for them to fly. The runway is long enough for a turboprop aircraft.)
Meanwhile, the Borongan City Airport is poise to welcome PAL’s maiden flight to the city on Dec. 19.
PAL will operate Cebu-Borongan return flights twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.
“It was a risk that we took on behalf of the city government even though there was no clear light at the end of the tunnel. However, we are optimistic that if Philippine Airlines and CAAP will see our determination, they would fold,” Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Agda said.
At present, travelers heading to the capital of Eastern Samar province would have to land at Tacloban Airport. They would then have to travel 5 to 6 hours by land to reach Borongan City. The other option is to travel by bus and ferry from Manila, which takes around 2 days.
Since it was completed in March 2013, the Borongan City Airport has been rarely used for commercial operations. It was completely shut down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing its capability to serve charter flights, Agda said the airport is ready to receive a potential market of air passengers, as the city now has a population of over 500,000.
Airlines expect a surge of travelers this December due to the Christmas rush, and as the economy reopens after a 2-year pandemic lockdown.