Dubai: Filipinos in the UAE welcomed the additional flights between the UAE and the Philippines that will take effect within the year and will possibly provide more connectivity to the regional airports.

Flights between the UAE and the Philippines will increase to a total of 70 per week within the year, up by 25 per cent from just 56 flights, Carmelo Arcilla, Executive Director of the Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board, told Gulf News on Friday.

Emirates and Etihad Airways will get 35 flight entitlements per week between them while the remaining 35 flights will be shared by Philippine carriers such as Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, and Cebu Pacific.

The flight increase followed two-day intensive air talks last week in response to the huge demand for seats on this busy route.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Grace Princesa said she has yet to receive official confirmation of this new development. But she hailed the results of the talks.

“If this is true, I hope it will be good for our compatriots as this would mean more seats for them and, hopefully, cheaper fares. This would also be good for tourists who would like to visit the Philippines since 2015 is Visit the Philippines Year,” Princesa told Gulf News.

The UAE is the largest Middle East destination from the Philippines according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa). Figures from Capa citing December 2014 data show that Dubai and Abu Dhabi destinations account for 42,686 weekly return seats or more than half of the 80,000 weekly return seats between the Middle East and the Philippines.

Currently, an estimated 850,000 Filipinos live and work in the UAE.

With the new agreement, other international airports in the Philippines such as Clark in the north or Cebu in the south will be utilised, providing a gateway to the populous and under-served southern part of the country.

“There was a strong clamour from Filipinos to increase the flights from the Philippines to the UAE and vice-versa. Between Cebu and Clark, I prefer that the new flights be made in Cebu where I come from. This would mean less hassle for us when travelling and more comfort for the entire family,” Lot Dela Cerna, 33, said.

The newer routes in Clark or Cebu will also decongest Manila’s airports and cut travel time, residents said.

“When we take the Dubai-Manila flight, we have to allot an additional five to six hours to our travel time due to heavy traffic on the drive from Manila to Clark. Our travel time now is between 12 and 13 hours as this is not a direct flight,” Marian, 34, who lives in Clark, Pampanga, said.

Currently, Emirates airline and Etihad Airways have 14 flight entitlements each in the Dubai/Abu Dhabi-Manila (and vice versa) sectors.

Philippine carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) has 14 weekly flight entitlements while PAL Express and Cebu Pacific have seven each, on the same route.