- Clark International (code: CRK), 87km of Manila, fast rising as an alternative to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital.
- In the run-up to the Holy Week holidays, more airlines are opening new routes, both international and domestic to and from CRK.
- Middle East-based Emirates and Qatar Airways alreasy operate daily fights to CRK.
Manila: Clark International Airport (CRK) is emerging as a new travel hub in central Luzon, the main Philippine island, as a less-congested alternate to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
A growing number of airlines are operating out of Clark International (codename: CRK), once the America's largest Air Force base outside mainland US.
CRK airport is situated about 87km northwest of the capital — and is today often used for business travel to and from Manila. It is increasingly becoming the jump-off point to visit some of the country's best islands.
Several domestic and international airlines reopened various routes to and from Clark in an increasing tempo seen boosting the country’s domestic and international tourism industry.
The reopening dates are timely and could meet market demand for flights to key tourism destinations during the long Holy Week holidays.
The single-runway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), on the other hand, is increasingly getting congested especially following post-COVID travel recovery.
Among the international flights that operate at Clark (CRK) include Philippine Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Jetstar, Fly Gangwon, Scoot, Royal Air, JejuAir, JinAir, Air Busan.
Both Dubai-based Emirates and Doha-based Qatar Airways operate daily flights at CRK. Cebu Pacific, the Philippines’ largest carrier, recently said it was boosting its Clark hub — with the combined 13 domestic and international routes, with its aircraft now based in Clark.
From March 26, 2023, Jeju Air will introduce daily flights from Clark to Busan, in South Korea. While the cadence of domestic flights reopening increases, it's not just Asian carriers that are setting their sights at CRK, which is in the middle of the Central Luzon plains.
Earlier this month, ambassadors from 14 European nations visited Clark to check out its facilities. The European envoys’ group was headed by European Union Ambassador Luc Véron, who went on a tour around the world-class airport and had a short briefing regarding the current and future plans.
Facilities for passengers
Clark is a logical alternative airport for Metro Manila, an urban mega-sprawl of nearly 13.5 million inhabitants, though plans are afoot to refurbish Sangley Point as an international airport in Cavite province and the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan province.
Set in the midst of the central plains of Luzon, CRK is linked to Manila to the South, Subic to the West, the northern Philippine provinces via decent freeways today.
CRK also serves a free zone, an industrial hub, with hundreds of towns and cities around it, as well as major destinations like Baguio, which is served by point-to-point bus service. In terms of support infrastructure, there are hundreds of hotels near and around Clark.
For passengers, amenities include a range of Asian and Western restaurants and shops, some of which are open 24 hours. WiFi is free for one hour per device. Now, for added comfort, economy class flyers can pay to enter an airport lounge.
1,229number of companies operating out of Clark as of April 2021.
Outside Manila, Clark is now considered a center for leisure, fitness, entertainment, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) in Central Luzon.
As of April 2021, Clark has registered a total of 1,229 operating companies, and 114,891 jobs, a number expected to grow in the post-pandemic recovery.
The CFEZ in Pampanga covers portions of the cities of Angeles and Mabalacat and portions of the town of Porac while parts of the area in Tarlac include portions of the towns of Capas and Bamban, Tarlac.
The CFEZ divided into two areas: the Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) and the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).
The New Clark City is part of the Clark Special Economic Zone. The CFZ covers the area of the former United States Air Force facility, Clark Air Base.
Most of this air base was converted to Clark International Airport and some remained under the control of the Philippine Air Force. Clark Global City is also part of the Clark Freeport Zone.
In November 2018, the BCDA and the Clark Development Corporation grouped four developments within the CFEZ, namely: the Clark Freeport Zone, Clark Global City, Clark International Airport, and New Clark City as "districts" under one brand dubbed as "Clark: It Works. Like A Dream".
On Tuesday (February 28, 2023), several local airlines reopened their direct flights from Clark to the country’s prime island tourist locations. The added routes boost connectivity to the country’s most in-demand tourist destinations, a move welcomed by the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT).
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said: “After months of our continuous discussions with relevant aviation agencies and stakeholders such as the Department of Transportation, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines, we welcome these additional flights as it serves the Marcos administration’s efforts to vastly improve tourism connectivity and spread economic opportunity nationwide,” she said Tuesday.
Cebu Pacific, PAL
From Clark, Cebu Pacific's international routes include Clark to Hongkong, Bangkok and Singapore.In boosting its Clark hub, Cebu Pacific’s 13 domestic and international routes from CRK, now service Caticlan, Davao, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro (from April). Cebu Pacific’s Clark-Puerto Princesa (Palawan) route kicks off in June.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) also announced flights from Clark to Caticlan, set to commence April 1 while it Clark- Busuanga flights will start on April 2, both on a scheduled basis.
Room to grow
CRK has room to grow: The airport is currently at only at 12 per cent utilisation, receiving only around 80,000 passengers a month despite its eight million annual passenger capacity, according to the tourism department.
“With the additional flights we meet a number of objectives: the decongestion of NAIA and minimising crowding in other airports, as well as develop the region further and attract more tourism activities and businesses in the area,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said.
It has also created 5.2 million tourism-related jobs.
In 2022, the tourism industry generated over Php214 billion in estimated revenues and created 5.2 million tourism-related jobs.