Ilocos Norte gov’t, PAL team-up to boost Laoag-Cebu flights

LAOAG CITY – Ilocos Norte has agreed to shoulder as much as 20 seats per flight on the Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) direct route from this city to Cebu for six months starting December 2023 to boost the province’s tourism sector.

On Monday, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) unanimously approved an urgent resolution authorizing the governor to ink a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with PAL for a joint marketing partnership to ensure the sustainability of the Laoag-Cebu flights, which will start on December 15 on a bi-weekly basis.

Provincial tourism officer-in-charge Xavier Ruiz told the Philippine News Agency also on Monday that the provincial government will be paying a “hard block price” in support of PAL’s operation to a new destination.

The hard block price is equivalent to 20 seats per flight in case the provincial government fails to sell the reserved tickets to its officials and employees.

“We hope to increase trade and transport connectivity [to Cebu] through a shared responsibility of making it happen,” Ruiz said, but declined to give projections on the demand for this route since the airline started selling the tickets less than two weeks ago.

Provincial government data show that the province welcomed almost three million visitors in 2022, way higher than the 800,000 in the previous year.

Last year, tourism receipts reached an estimated PHP8.8 billion.

Ruiz explained that based on previous marketing study, there is a great interest from the Visayas and Mindanao to come to northern Philippines without passing through Metro Manila.

“This flight is different because we are opening up the south to Northern Philippines, which will not only benefit Ilocos Norte but also its neighboring provinces of Ilocos Sur, Abra, Cagayan and Apayao among others,” he said.

PAL is set to use the 86-seater De Havilland Dash 8-400 Next Generation aircraft for the Cebu-Laoag route.

The twice-weekly flights will operate on Tuesdays and Fridays, with PR 2251 departing Cebu at 7:35 a.m. while flight PR 2252 will leave Laoag at 10:25 a.m. (PNA)