Emirates airline’s new daily circular service from Dubai to Cebu and Clark in the Philippines has touched down at Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
The service, which is the airline’s latest route addition, is expected to strengthen international connectivity to the hubs, which are two of the Philippines’ fastest-growing.
The nine-hour inaugural flight left Dubai in the early hours of Wednesday morning and was welcomed with an airport reception and press conference upon touching down in Cebu mid-afternoon.
The airport is the second busiest in the Philippines behind Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“The Cebu Clark route has been a long commitment for Emirates in the Philippines since we started our flights to Manila in 1990, so it’s kind of a story-built commitment," said Emirates’ senior vice president commercial operations Far East, Badr Abbas.
“Cebu Clark is a popular destination - 75 per cent of Filipino foreign workers living in the Gulf area originate from the Philippines’ northern zone, which is close to Cebu area, while the catchment in the northern region has 17 million, and a lot of them are overseas workers working in the Middle East," he added.
Mr Abbas says he is confident the new service will be a good addition to the overall Philippines strategy and would generate enough demand to sustain direct flights.
The launch of the service comes a day after Emirates added four additional weekly flights from Dubai to Manila.
Since launching to the capital 26 years ago Emirates has transported more than 7.5 million Filipinos, international tourists and business travellers. Last year alone, it hosted more than 550,000 passengers on the Manila-Dubai route.
Cebu attracted 3.5 million foreign and local tourists between January and October 2015, which was up 4.1 per cent on the same period in 2014.
The two-class configured Boeing777-300ER that Emirates will operate on this route offers 42 seats in business class and 386 seats in economy class, with starting rates for each class starting from Dh8,775 and Dh2,385 including taxes respectively.
The flights to Cebu and Clark are scheduled to depart daily from Dubai as EK338 at 2.55am and arrive at Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 3.50pm. The service will then depart from Cebu at 5.25pm and arrive at Clark International Airport at 6.45pm. The return flight will depart at 8.20pm, arriving at Dubai International Airport the following morning at 1.25am.
According to Philippine officials the new services are a boon to their country, and especially important to its foreign workers.
“I have a brother working in Dubai, with this flight it makes my brother closer to home," a local spokeswoman said.
Last year, Emirates, which currently operates 251 aircraft worldwide, carried 49.3 million passengers and generated revenue of $US24.2 billion.
The inaugural flight saw Cebu local Walter Friday Brigoli as first officer.