Cebu Pac to mount direct flights to Riyadh, Dammam

MANILA, Philippines – Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) is set to mount direct flights to Riyadh and Dammam as part of efforts to expand its routes to the Middle East to serve the needs of overseas Filipino workers.

The low cost carrier is seeking the green light from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to impose a fuel surcharge on international passengers of Manila – Riyadh and Manila – Dammam flights.

Cebu Pacific intends to impose a $105 fuel surcharge on each passenger for both routes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The CAB allows airlines to impose fuel surcharge on international and domestic passengers as a temporary relief to help them recover losses arising from the increase in jet fuel prices in the world market.

The low cost carrier launched its first long-haul operations via direct flights between Manila and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last Oct. 7 using a brand new Airbus A330 aircraft.

The Philippines inked new air services agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

In the air pact with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both countries agreed to double flight frequencies to 21 flights per week from the previous 10 between the two countries and to remove limits on flights from Clark international airport in Pampanga.

On the other hand, the agreement with the United Arab Emirates likewise doubled flight entitlements to 28 per week from 14 between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.

Rival national flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc., jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), resumed direct flights to both Riyadh and Dammam using A330-300 early this month after non-stop flights to Abu Dhabi last Oct. 1 and Dubai via sister firm PAL Express last Nov. 6.

The national flag carrier first flew to Riyadh using Boeing 747-400 in March 1987 but the service was suspended in March 2011. It also mounted flights to Dammam in July 1982 via the Dhahran international airport moving to King Fahd international airport in 1999 but was the service was terminated in August 2001.

Likewise, Cebu Pacific is seeking the approval of CAB to impose a $50 fuel surcharge on each passenger of direct flights to Osaka in Japan starting Dec. 20 and to Narita and Nagoya starting March 30 next year.

The Philippines and Japan inked a new air service agreement increasing the number of flights between Manila and Narita to a total maximum 400 per week from the previous 119. It also allowed 14 flights per week between Manila and Haneda as well as unlimited air traffic rights between points in the Philippines except Manila and points in Japan except Haneda.

Japan has been imposing restrictions on local carriers from the Philippines preventing them from mounting additional flights after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) raised several safety security concerns since 2008. ICAO lifted the concerns last February.

Cebu Pacific’s bid to fly to Europe has been delayed due to Super Typhoon Yolanda as the hearing of its application to enter the European airspace has been deferred by the European Union to March next year instead of last November.

Last July 10, the EU announced the lifting of a ban imposed in 2010 that allowed PAL to mount direct flights to London last Nov. 4.