PH airlines eye flights to Myanmar

Local airlines are looking at new tourism opportunities with Myanmar after the country sealed this week agreements with the Philippines to strengthen bilateral ties, including visa-free entry for a period of time for travelers between both nations.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines and budget airline Cebu Pacific Air said they were interested in flying to Myanmar, often described as the region’s final frontier, according to their respective officials.

While the Philippines and Myanmar do not share any existing air service agreement, regulator Civil Aeronautics Board said talks were already in the calendar and have tentatively been set for the first or second quarter of 2014, executive director Carmelo Arcilla said in an interview Friday.

“It is a potential aviation market, within the next three years one of our airlines can consider flying there,” Arcilla said.

Even before recent developments, Myanmar has been in CAB’s radar. Arcilla said they had scheduled air talks with Myanmar in 2006 but these were called off due to the political turmoil in the country. The situation is different today under the leadership of Myanmar’s reform-minded president Thein Sein.

“For a long while Myanmar was the pariah of Southeast Asia so these talks are a long time coming,” Arcilla said.

Among the country’s major carriers, Arcilla noted that Cebu Pacific has expressed its interest to fly to Myanmar.

Jorenz Tañada, Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs, confirmed this, noting that the airline supports the government’s plan to boost tourism and trade with Myanmar.