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MCIA eyes new int’l flights in next 2 years

With the construction of a new passenger terminal proceeding as scheduled, the management of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), GMR- Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMACAC), is looking to open new routes connecting Cebu to Australia, Europe and more Asean countries within the next two years. Expanding connections to China, Japan and South Korea are also being studied for implementation soon. The MCIA Terminal 2 is set to open in mid 2018, and is forecasted to increase passenger traffic to the region, through Cebu.

“By pursuing new and diverse routes and increasing travel and tourism to the Visayas Mindanao regions, we are ensuring long term sustainability and economic and social benefits for the passengers and the businesses,” said Louie Ferrer, GMCAC president.

This year, MCIA is targeting to hit 10 million passenger arrivals by the end of 2017, or a 12 percent jump from 2016. GMCAC and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), the government owned and controlled corporation supervising the airside operations, are both actively marketing the airport as a gateway to southern Philippines.

“The robust growth in the number of flights and passengers to MCIA is indicative of the national and global acceptance of Cebu as a world-class destination,” said Atty. Steve Dicdican, MCIAA general manager. “To keep up with the foreseeable steady growth in the years to come and the expectations of passengers that pass through our gateway, we at MCIAA are committed to delivering an airport experience that is reflective of the dynamism and warmth of Cebu.”

New routes

The latest passenger numbers for the MCIA were recently released, with GMCAC disclosing that the country’s second busiest gateway logged a total of 8.9 million passengers – with 6.7 million domestic and 2.2 million international.

2016 numbers grew 12 percent from the previous year, with 2015 passenger arrivals registering a total of 7.98 million passengers – with 5.91 million domestic and 2.07 international.

“We are proud and excited to be at the helm of this growth. With a total of 16 international destinations, 30 domestic destinations, and with 19 partner airline carriers, it shows that Cebu is no longer just a secondary airport. It is a viable choice connecting to the rest of the Philippines and to the world,” said Ferrer.

Just last year, five new international destinations and three domestic destinations were launched out of the MCIA.

The new international routes include: Cebu-Los Angeles (PAL); Cebu-Xiamen (Xiamen Air); Cebu-Dubai (Emirates); Cebu-Chengdu (China Eastern Airlines and PAL); Cebu-Hangzhou (Ais Asia); Cebu-Wuhan (China Eastern Airlines); and Cebu-Daegu (T’Way Air). Meanwhile, new domestic routes were launched from Cebu to Ormoc, Calbayog and Roxas by Cebu Pacific.

Sustained growth in the travel market also saw airline companies adding new flights to existing routes like Cebu-Taipei (Eva Air); Cebu-Pusan (Air Busan); Cebu-Kuala Lumpur, Cebu- Taipei, and Cebu Singapore by Air Asia; Cebu-Caticlan and Cebu-Singapore by PAL; and Cebu- Narita by Vanilla Air.

In the first quarter of this year, PAL opened five new domestic routes (Clark, Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Surigao and Coron) out of Cebu thereby investing in domestic connectivity and increasing its regional network.

Increased capacity and capability

As more international and domestic destinations are launched, GMCAC emphasized that increasing Mactan-Cebu Airport’s capacity is the next crucial step.

“We need proper infrastructure so that we can accommodate more airlines and more flights. Route development is essential to an airport; the more flights we have, the more passengers will pass through our gates,” Ferrer said.

Slated to open in June 2018, Terminal 2 will increase passenger capacity to 12.5 million. Spanning 65,500 square meters, the new terminal will not only lessen congestion but will offer an exciting and wide-ranging retail environment. The architectural design is inspired by Cebu’s island heritage.

“We create the first and last impressions visitors make of Cebu and the rest of the country, and thus, we want to create a worthy impression for everyone. Not only will the new terminal look distinctly Filipino, it will also be a complete experience of Filipino hospitality the moment you set foot here,” Ferrer stated.

GMCAC improvements

Terminal operations of the MCIA were officially handed over to GMCAC in November 2014. Although the Concession Agreement stated that Terminal 1 renovations would commence after completion of Terminal 2 in 2018, GMCAC decided to undertake major renovations to improve passenger comfort in the existing terminal immediately after handover.

Among these efforts were the introduction of technological efficiencies that streamline passenger processing and lessen congestion within the existing terminal such as a universal check-in system that allows counters to be distributed evenly to meet peak demands, self-service check-in kiosks and a new Baggage Reconciliation System for more accurate baggage loading. GMCAC also introduced Cebu Connect, a transfer and early check-in facility that allows passengers with connecting flights to easily drop their baggage for check-in and have their boarding passes printed out up to 12 hours before their flight.

In the recent years, Mactan-Cebu Airport’s successful PPP model has gained international awards and recognition. Among them are: Asia Pacific Regional Airport of the Year (2016); Asia Pacific PPP Deal of the Year (2016); Best Transport Deal for Asia Pacific (2016); Project Finance Deal of the Year and Best Transport Deal of the Year (2015); and Best Transit Category for 2015. It was also short-listed for the last three consecutive years by Routes for Best Marketing.

Last year, The Guide to Sleeping in Airports named Mactan-Cebu Airport as the 14th Best Airport in Asia, up from the 18th spot in 2015.