TWO long-haul flights will resume out of Cebu by the second quarter of 2020.
Qatar Airways is reviving its direct link from Cebu to Doha starting April 8, 2020 with three weekly flights while Philippine Airlines (PAL) is is also resuming its Cebu to Los Angeles route on May 2.
The Gulf carrier’s comeback to Cebu will boost the southern aviation hub’s connectivity to the Middle East, home to more than two million overseas Filipino workers.
Cebu was among the eight new destinations the Qatar-based airline announced at the opening day of the Kuwait Aviation Show on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.
The airline will fly to Doha, Qatar from Cebu every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Qatar Airways entered Cebu in 2003. It allowed greater accessibility for European tourists, as well as for overseas Filipino workers.
However, 10 years after, the airline halted its Cebu service on March 26, 2012.
The airline’s Cebu-Doha route back then was unprofitable with the A330-200 because of the relatively low yields in the Cebu market, airline consultancy firm Capa-Center for Aviation said.
Rising fuel costs and high operating expenditures were also the reasons the airline suspended its operations.
But in 2016, Qatar Airways had expressed its interest to come back to Cebu.
Besides Cebu, the other seven new destinations that Qatar Airways plans to mount direct flights to were Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Accra, Ghana; Trabzon, Turkey; Lyon, France; Luanda, Angola; and Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Qatar Airways currently operates a modern fleet of more than 250 aircraft via its hub, Hamad International Airport, to more than 160 destinations worldwide.
Meanwhile, PAL intends to directly connect Cebu again three times weekly to the US mainland via Los Angeles.
The flag carrier last operated this route from March 2016 to May 2017.
In a research note, Nigel Mayes, senior vice president at route development consultancy firm ASM, said PAL “has likely chosen Cebu from which to add additional service to Los Angeles because of slot constraints in Manila.”
According to figures from Sabre Market Intelligence, overall origin and destination (O&D) traffic demand between Cebu and Los Angeles in the 12 months to June 2019 stood at 48,944 passengers, a year-on-year rise of 8.1 percent.
Given that the route is yet unserved, the top three one-stop connecting points were Shanghai, Manila and Hong Kong, accounting for 25.2 percent, 21.8 percent and 17.7 percent of traffic, respectively.
Los Angeles is home to a large Filipino community.
A 2010 US census report said that Filipinos account for about 3.3 percent of Los Angeles’ 9.8 million population.
Overall O&D traffic between Los Angeles and the Philippines has grown significantly in recent years, increasing from 392,765 two-way passengers in 2014 to 602,896 in 2018.