emirates planes
Emirates and Philippine Airlines have signed an agreement to boost connectivity for passengers of both air carriers. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Travel between the UAE and top destinations in the Philippines – Manila, Cebu, and Clark – is witnessing unprecedented demand from expatriates and tourists during peak tourism season from March to April.

The onset of the super-peak tourist period during the Holy Week/Easter, which falls on April 9 this year, has pushed up traffic from the UAE, according to travel agents operating in the sector. Moreover, UAE and Philippines carriers are going all out to make the best out of the seasonal demand.

Geoffrey Salatan, Managing Director at MRG Pinas Travel, said: “Demand to the Philippines largely depends on seasonality. March, June, July, August, and December are peak selling and peak travel period for us.”

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He explained: “Most passengers prefer direct flights. However, since the Philippines is a price-sensitive market, most travellers, especially expatriates heading home for the holidays, would consider connecting flights with a shorter layover.”

And airfares to destinations in the Philippines have risen since 2019, as 2023 marks the first year since the removal of all pandemic-triggered travel restrictions. On average, ticket prices for direct flights have increased to Dh2,034 (Manila) and Dh2,102 (Cebu) compared to the Dh1,960 travellers were paying in 2019.

Another factor driving demand is baggage allowance. Salatan explained, “The more the baggage allowance, the better.”

Summer travel packages

Travel agents have already launched special packages for the summer break, another peak travel time for Filipino expatriates in the UAE. For travel from July 10 to August 19, airfares are priced at Dh2,600 to Dh2,850. Malou Prado, the CEO and owner of MPQ Travel Agency, said: “Summer travel packages to Ilocos, La Union, and Sagada are priced at Dh3,599 to Dh3,899. The package includes three-day and two-night stay, free breakfast, and a complete city-wide tour of the three cities.”

UAE and Philippines carriers bolster operations

Earlier this month, Dubai’s flag carrier Emirates and Philippine Airlines (PAL) signed an interline agreement to boost connectivity for passengers of both air carriers to new points on each other’s networks via Manila and Dubai, using a single ticket and one baggage policy. Emirates serves the Philippines with 25 weekly flights to the three getaways – Manila, Cebu and Clark.

The reciprocal interline partnership provides Emirates’ passenger’s access to 19 Philippine domestic destinations operated by Philippine Airlines, including Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Cotabato, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo and more, as well as two Asian regional points via Manila.

Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “The Philippines is one of our strongest consumer markets. The partnership with Philippine Airlines will help open new links for trade and tourism that will drive more inbound traffic into the market and expand Emirates’ footprint in East Asia.”

Bud Britanico, Philippine Airlines Vice President for Sales, had said PAL would gain more accessible access to more destinations across Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa via flights to Dubai.

Meanwhile, budget carrier Cebu Pacific said it had increased its market share by acquiring 57 per cent of the local airline market in 2022, up from 52 per cent recorded in 2019. Citing the Civil Aeronautics Board data, Cebu Pacific said it flew 14.8 million passengers home and abroad in 2022, up 335 per cent annually. CEB is set to restore 100 per cent of its pre-COVID network and capacity in March 2023.

Dh27 airfare offer

And the airline is also going to capture the Gulf markets. In celebration of its 27th anniversary in March, Cebu Pacific has launched special promotional fares of Dh27 on its Dubai-Manila flights. The deal will be available for those booking flights to the Philippines from April 1 to September 30, and the offer can be availed from March 6 to 10. The one-way base fare is not inclusive of fees and surcharges, the airline announced on Monday. Cebu Pacific (CEB) operates twice daily flights on the Manila-Dubai route.