Cebu: Emirates inaugural flight to Cebu and Clark in Philippines touched down on Wednesday at Mactan Cebu International Airport, strengthening international connectivity to two of the Philippines’ fastest-growing international hubs outside Manila.

The flight operates on Dubai-Cebu-Clark-Dubai route. The flight from Dubai will stop over in Cebu in the Visayas and fly to Clark in Luzon and then return to Dubai.

With the launch of new flights, Emirates now operates 25 flights per week from Dubai to the Philippines, meeting huge traffic demands especially from more than 600,000 Filipino expatriates living in the UAE.

The flight was given warm welcome with traditional water-cannon salute and a cultural show at the airport after it touched down at 3.50pm local time (11.50 am Dubai)

"The circular flight with rights to two domestic destinations is a new trend for Emirates catering to the market demand," Badr Abbas, Emirates' Senior Vice President, told Gulf News on the sideline of a press conference held at the Cebu International Airport. 

Abbas said that the airline is expanding its wings in this region by adding more destinations and increasing frequencies on the existing routes.

The airline will also launch two more circular routes this year.

Emirates will start flight from Dubai to Yinchuan and Zhengzhou, Mainland China on May 3.

The airline has also announced to operate another route from Dubai to Yangon, Myanmar and Hanoi, Vietnam starting on August 3.

A VIP delegation and contingent of international media were aboard the inaugural flight, which carried passengers who had commenced their journeys from nearly 60 cities, ranging from Rio De Janeiro to Stockholm, on Emirates’ global network.

Popular Philippine exports on this route are expected to be perishables — such as dairy products, fruit especially dried mangoes and vegetables, meat, seafood and electronic equipment.

“We are confident that our new service will have a positive impact on the development of tourism and trade in the Philippines’ regional economies," Abbas told a crowded press conference at the airport.

"Furthermore, our extensive global network of over 150 destinations will help enhance connectivity for Cebu and Clark, providing more markets for regional products and additional opportunities for inbound tourism," he added. 

Abbas said the new route would also provide more choice for travellers from the Philippines, who will be able to conveniently connect to 39 cities in Europe, 16 in the Middle East as well as a number of destinations across Emirates' extensive network in Africa and South America -- via the Dubai hub.

Paz Radaza, Mayor of City of Lapu-Lapu in Cebu, told Gulf News that direct link between Dubai and Cebu and Clark has not only brought a large number of Flipinos working in the Gulf closer to their homes but will also help improve trade and tourism.

"We are working on plans to cater to influx of tourists from the Gulf and other countries with Halal food restaurants and facilities in hotels," she added. 

Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of the Cebu Airport, said that the airport is expanding as a new terminal will be ready by 2017.

"Currently, we receive 67 per cent Korean tourists but with the launching of flights by Emirates, we are now open to a new world and are expecting to receive tourists from Middle East in addition to catering to Filipino community working overseas," he noted.

Popular dishes

Emirates’ flights to and from the Philippines also cater to the needs of the Filipino market with Filipino-speaking cabin crew on board, and inflight cuisine options with popular Filipino dishes.

As with all Emirates flights, passengers travelling on the Cebu and Clark service will enjoy the generous Emirates baggage allowance of 30kg in Economy Class and 40kg in Business Class.

Emirates employs almost 5,000 Filipinos, including over 1,050 cabin crew.

Emirates flights to Cebu and Clark depart daily from Dubai as EK338 at 02:55 hours, arriving at Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 15:50 hours.

The service then departs from Cebu at 17:20 hours and arrives at Clark International Airport at 18:50 hours. The return flight departs Clark at 20:20 hours, arriving at Dubai International Airport at 01:20 hours the next day.

On the inaugural flight were Emirates executives including Salem Obaidalla, Senior Vice President Aeropolitical & Industry Affairs; Badr Abbas, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations Far East, and Jassim Saif, Vice President Cargo Commercial - West Asia & South East Asia.

Paul Raymund P. Cortes, Consul General Philippines in Dubai also accompanied the delegation. 

In command of the inaugural service of the two-class Boeing 777-300ER were Captain Ali Aljallaf from the UAE and First Officers Walter Friday Brigoli from the Philippines and John Buncayo from the USA.

The cabin crew included several from the Philippines. The aircraft was greeted in Cebu with a traditional water cannon salute upon arrival.

Do you know about Cebu and Clark?

The island of Cebu lies in the Visayas, one of the three principal geographical divisions of the Philippines. Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located on Cebu’s Mactan Island, is the second busiest airport in the Philippines, after Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Cebu is one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines, and continues to evolve as a key hub for furniture-making, business processing services and heavy industry.

With Cebu and the surrounding islands’ rich tourism offering, which includes white sandy beaches and picturesque diving spots, central Visayas attracted a total of 1.6 million foreign tourists last year. Cebu is also an ideal base for exploring the nearby Chocolate Hills of Bohol and idyllic islands such as Boracay.

Clark is based in Pampanga, a province in the Central Luzon region in the Philippines and a well-known hub for business processing services and tourism. Pampanga is served by Clark International Airport which is in Clark Freeport Zone, a redevelopment of the former Clark Air Base, previously a United States Air Force base in the Philippines.


Timeline: Dubai-Philippines flight operation

June 17, 1990: Emirates launched their twice a week flights on the Manila–Bangkok–Dubai route, and once a week flight on the Manila–Dubai route using an A310 and A300 aircraft interchangeably.

March 27, 1996: Emirates introduced a bigger aircraft, Boeing 777 on the route, used interchangeably with Airbus A330.

March 1, 2007: From 10 flights per week, Emirates commences its two flights daily non-stop on the Manila–Dubai route.

Emirates flagship carrier, the A380, had a one-off commercial flight to Manila October 07, 2014 which brought home more than 300 passengers.

In 2013, Emirates invested almost $100 million through direct expenditures in the Philippines.

March 29, 2016: Emirates increases its Dubai-Manila (DXB-MNL) flights with additional four weekly flights.

March 30, 2016: Emirates launches its first Dubai-Cebu-Clark-Dubai (DXB-CEB-CRK-DXB) circular service, marking its first entry in Cebu City and its re-launch in Clark, where we first started in 2013.

Emirates offers convenient connections through its Dubai hub to an extensive global network stretching across 150 destinations in 80 countries in the Middle East, Far East, Australasia, Africa, Europe, the USA and South Asia.

Emirates currently operates 14 weekly flights from Manila non-stop to Dubai, all departing from Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila.

March 29, 2016: Emirates increases its DXB/MNL/DXB service with four additional weekly flights.

With the additional four weekly DXB/MNL/DXB flights and a seven weekly circular service DXB/CEB/CRK/DXB – this will bring Emirates’ weekly flights to the Philippines to 25.