Dubai/Manila: Increasing demand for more seats and flights between the UAE and Manila will be considered in the talks that will be held between the UAE and the Philippines this week.

The number of Filipino workers in the UAE is projected to increase from the current 850,000 to more than one million over the next five years, that will fuel more demand for flights between the two countries, sources from both countries said.

The UAE and the Philippines are holding the air talks from August 27 to 28 in Manila on the basis of “increased connectivity”, said Jesus Ibay, chief for economic planning and research of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), adding that seven months had passed after talks were postponed last January.

“The UAE remains the most preferred country in the Middle East and the GCC for employment for Filipinos. The upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to generate more than 275,000 new jobs in the hospitality, IT, engineering and medical services sectors, offering more opportunities for Filipinos,” Emirates airline said in a statement.

“This ever increasing Overseas Filipino Worker passenger traffic is consistently rising, thus creating exceptionally strong demand for seats on the route,” Emirates argued.

More than a million OFWs are based in the Middle East, 850,000 of whom are in the UAE.

Philippine carriers, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific, have no statement for the scheduled talks, in comparison with the support of UAE’s Emirates and Etihad Airways to the scheduled negotiations, observers of the aviation industry said in Manila.

Philippine carriers are against UAE carriers’ call for additional flight entitlements in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, observers added.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Grace Princesa underscored the need for the air talks as she hoped it would resolve issues concerning the UAE-Manila flight route.

“Definitely we want more seats for Overseas Filipinos [based in the UAE] and for tourists. If the talks do happen, we hope it would be provide a win-win outcome. It will be good so we can discuss the issues that confront the air travel industry,” Princesa told Gulf News.

Sharon Maligro, a travel agent based in Dubai, agreed that demand for more seats is increasing.

“There is no longer a concept of low season or peak season for UAE-Manila flights. They are fully booked and oftentimes are at 80 per cent capacity in almost all carriers throughout the year,” Maligro told Gulf News.

Sherry Eleazar, who flew to the Philippines late in July, said if more seats are added, she hopes they will be affordable. Her July flight was packed to and from Manila.

“It’s good to have more options to fly, be it by full service airlines or budget carriers. But many Filipinos prefer affordable flights to Manila. So there should be more budget flights,” Eleazar said.

Flight entitlements between the UAE and the Philippines doubled from 14 to 28 per week after the 2012 air talks.

Emirates and Etihad Airways have 14 flight entitlements per week in the Dubai-Manila and return route. PAL has 14 weekly flight entitlements; PAL Express, seven; and Cebu Pacific, seven, in the same route.

Emirates and Etihad operate five daily flights on the Dubai-Manila route while Philippines’ PAL and Cebu operate three daily flights on the same route.