The city government is expecting a surge in tourist arrivals and trade linkages with key areas in Central Luzon with the formal opening of direct flights on Monday between the Clark International Airport.
The inaugural flight chartered by MAG Travel and Tours left the city airport past 10 a.m. Monday following the ceremonial unveiling of the new air route, the city's first in Luzon outside of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
A delegation of city officials and local tourism industry stakeholders comprised the initial passengers of the maiden flight to Clark, which was serviced by a Fokker-50 aircraft operated by Leading Edge Air Services Corp.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the opening of the direct flights between the city and Clark came after over a year of negotiations with airline industry players.
We're very happy that this has been realized. We're very positive with this new air route and looking forward to the expansion of the flights in the coming months, Rivera told reporters.
A 50-seater plane will initially serve the General Santos-Clark route with two return flights per week, specifically every Tuesday and Sunday.
MAG Travel offered an introductory one-way fare of PHP3,500 for the route, inclusive of a 10-kilogram (kg) checked-in baggage allowance and 7kg hand-carried baggage per passenger.
Leonard Flores, chief of the City Economic Management and Cooperative Development Office, said MAG Travel has already started negotiations with RoyalAir Philippines for the opening of additional flights.
Flores said the move is aimed to cope with the expected increase in cargo and passenger traffic for the route, adding they expect to see a lot of local and foreign visitors to visit the city and other parts of Soccksargen via Clark.
Rosanna Contreras, executive director of the Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc., said the opening of the air route is a huge boost to the city's thriving tuna industry.
Contreras said tuna producers could eventually use it as a primary route in bringing their products to the greater part of Luzon.
Based on our initial assessment, it will be more viable to use the Clark route cost-wise, she said.
The air linkage was supported by the United States Agency for International Development's Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity.
Source: Philippines News Agency