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High hopes: Talks underway to bring direct flights from USA to Angeles City’s Clark Airport

Talks are underway to bring direct flights from the USA to Clark Airport in Angeles City.

Alexander Cauguiran, the president of Clark International Airport Corporation, said: “Yes, we are currently in negotiations with air carriers, pertaining especially in connecting Clark to North America.” Mr Caiguiran added that he could give no further details while negotiations were continuing.

Late last year, we reported how some new services are coming to Clark, along with plans for a huge expansion that is ultimately aimed to make Clark one of the world’s largest hubs. (Read more here)

Since December 16, Philippines Airlines has been running new daily flights to Caticlan and Cebu; four a week to Davao and Busuanga; and three to Cagayan de Oro. Then, on January 1, daily flights to Incheon, Seoul, were launched to serve the area’s large Korean community.

New services in the pipeline include AirAsia’s thrice weekly Clark to Kalibo service, due to begin operating late next month. Philippines Airlines is also expanding its services at Clark, with a Palawan route via Puerto Princesa and Busuanga due to launch on March 26.

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This week, we also reported on a new flight service connecting NAIA with the surfer’s paradise island of Siargao. (Read more here.)

The announcement by Mr Cauguiran follows President Duterte’s plea to take the pressure off Manila’s overcrowded and gridlocked NAIA airport. Originally designed to serve 13 million passengers annually, by 2015 it was handling more than 36 million.

“Clark ought to be the most logical and practical airport of choice of the people from the northern and central parts of Luzon,” added Mr Cauguiran.

He also said that as part of the huge expansion of Clark Airport, the Duterte administration plans to complete another terminal by 2019, before the end of his term of office and further expansion. “Plans of maximising Clark Airport are aligned with Secretary Tugade’s efforts to ease the congestion at the NAIA and Metro Manila,” Mr Cauguiran confirmed.

Clark has long been considered something of a “Cinderella airport” — often overlooked for expansion due to its distance from Metro Manila and lack of overland mass transit links. For example, last August plans to reroute services between Tacloban and Manila were vetoed following opposition from government officials and business and tourism leaders.

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However, the Department of Transportation has already pledged to address this by building a new railway system between Clark and the capital. Although yet to be finalised, transportation secretary Arthur Tugade has said it would be completed before the president’s term of office ends in 2022.

It has also been announced recently that nearly three billion pesos will be spent on improving infrastructure at the airport, a first step towards the eight-million capacity. Eventually however, according to the “grand plan” for Clark, by 2025 it will be one of the world’s largest, with an annual passenger capacity of 80 million.

Watch this space.

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