CLARK FREEPORT -- China Eastern Airline has confirmed that it will start its Clark flights to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on October 18.

This developed following the successful deal between the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) and China Eastern recently.

The airline will be augmenting its flight network and use Clark airport as one of its global hubs.

China Eastern Airlines is a legacy carrier with a strong presence on routes in Asia, North America and Australia. It offers first class and business class seating, and a frequent-flyer program.

“The great news is that travelers from North and Central Luzon may now fly China Eastern from Clark to Shanghai and easily connect to the US and other major destinations in Europe and Asia and other international routes,” Alexander Cauguiran, CIAC head, said.

Earlier, a representative of China Eastern said the airline is keen on mounting flights via Clark as it is “encouraged by its marketability and the increasing number of its local destinations.”

“China Eastern also targets mostly business travelers and Chinese family tourists who wish to visit popular local destinations, and that influx (of Chinese tourists) will boost the local hotel industry and business communities in North and Central Luzon,” Cauguiran said.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) counts China as the third largest market of Philippine tourism. Around 630,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines from January to November 2016 but with warmer ties with Beijing, the DOT expects this number of arrivals to double by the end of 2017.

With this, the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PamCham) has lauded the move of China Eastern Airline to mount flights at Clark airport.

“PamCham lauds this new development and will certainly help in local tourism and prepares more linkages for business with Shanghai which is hub of many global companies doing business in the region and China,” said PamCham Chairman Emeritus Levy Laus.

Clark International Airport logged in a total of 6,205 international and domestic flights with 950,732 passengers for local and foreign routes in 2016.

CIAC recorded an increase in passenger volume after President Duterte called for greater utilization of Clark airport.

From January to May 2017, Clark airport registered 632,713 passengers and 4,603 domestic and international flights.

Clark currently has 130 international flights and 114 domestic flights weekly. Passenger traffic is projected to reach 1.5 million by end of 2017.

The construction of Clark’s new terminal-building, which can accommodate eight million passengers annually, is scheduled to be finished by the first quarter of 2020.

The project is spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Vivencio Dizon.

Cauguiran said negotiations for direct flights from Clark to the United States, Japan, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan and Thailand are ongoing. (With JTD)