Airline expands Eastern Visayas operations

MAASIN CITY -- Air Juan Aviation Inc. is expanding its operation in Eastern Visayas by opening new route and adding flights to provinces, its top official said on July 24.

Air Juan Chief Executive Officer John Anthony Gutierrez said the company will launch the Cebu-Maasin flight on August 1, cutting travel time from five hours to only 30 minutes.

Next month, the company will add flights to the newly-opened Cebu-Biliran route, Gutierrez said during a meeting with local officials here.

Gutierrez said the Cebu-Biliran flight is very inspiring because after only three weeks of operation, they have decided to increase the number of flights from three to five times weekly.

“This is one of my favorite stories after our Cuyo experience,” said Gutierrez, referring to Cuyo Island in Palawan where the aviation company offers daily flights.

Air Juan launched its Biliran operation last June 19, offering nine seats of their 12-seater Cessna plane. Gutierrez said the new route has the most inquiry after launching.

The airline is the first company to use the Biliran airport. Through this flight, the province can be reached from Cebu for only 45 minutes.

In the past, tourists have to travel two to three hours to get to the nearest airport in Ormoc or Tacloban to catch a flight to Cebu.

In Southern Leyte, tourism stakeholders see the new flight as a big boost to the local tourism industry that has been catering foreign divers.

Gunter Mosche, owner of Southern Leyte Diver in Macrohon town, said the opening of a flight to Southern Leyte is a big development because travel to the province is a major setback in inviting tourist.

For tourists coming from Cebu, they have to travel four hours from Tacloban airport or almost three hours from Ormoc City airport where there are regular flights.

Mosche said the coming of Air Juan to Southern Leyte is promising and the announcement of the company officials that they may increase the twice weekly to a daily flight is a big success to the tourism industry.

Most of the tourists that visit Southern Leyte dive sites are from Europe, Australia and United States, visiting the province from the months of September to April.

"If we could just work together, this will benefit Southern Leyte, which will let the whole world know where we are and what we can offer," Mosche added.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes recalled that they had been asking for airline companies to offer flights to Southern Leyte, considering the number of foreign tourists coming to the province.

“The additional four hours travel from Tacloban or more than three hours travel from Ormoc City is additional burden to tourists and this eats most of their time on the road, hence reducing the time to enjoy. For people who are time-conscious, this Cebu-Maasin City flight of Air Juan is a blessing,” Tiopes said.

The Cebu-Biliran flight had cut travel time of travelers going to Biliran from Cebu by 45 minutes.

Tiopes is hopeful for the airline firm to offer flights in other places of Eastern Visayas with an existing airport but not used by commercial planes, such as Catbalogan in Samar.

Air Juan is a pioneering aviation company in the Philippines that provides fast and hassle-free air transport services to some of the Philippines most beautiful and less-chartered destinations like Baler, Balesin, Boracay Island, Busuanga, Coron, Cuyo, Mamburao, Marinduque, Puerto Galera and Subic.

The company, the first commercial seaplane operator in the Philippines, is a duly licensed scheduled airline by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Civil Aeronautics Board, and also accredited by the Department of Tourism as a Tourist Air Transport provider. (PNA)
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