TAIWAN’S flag carrier China Airlines has finally landed in Cebu after its maiden flight arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, carrying 120 passengers.

The airline’s arrival and departure were welcomed by a water canon salute.

China Airlines is the recent addition to MCIA’s growing airline partners.

It flies four flights weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from MCIA using its Airbus A321neo aircraft with a 180-seat capacity and a two-class configuration.

Fu Sheng Wang, general manager of China Airlines in the Philippines, said Cebu had long been in the airline’s radar of expansion, banking on the big market potential of the Visayas and Mindanao but its planned entry to Cebu was temporarily delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

China Airlines is set to push for more leisure travel and grow the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport hub as it adds more Southeast Asia destinations to its network.

“We are very much looking forward to the China Airlines’ Cebu to Taipei service. Through this, we hope to strengthen leisure travel demand during this recovery period and we are proud to partner with China Airlines in pushing for the growth in traffic that we are working on,” GMCAC president Louie Ferrer said.

MCIA Authority general manager and chief executive officer Julius Neri Jr. said China Airlines’ entry to Cebu is a positive signal for Cebu’s recovering tourism industry.

Neri is pleased with China Airlines recognizing Cebu as a potential destination and a tourist source market, adding that its entry is a “new way to Cebu to interconnect with the world.”

“As China Airlines joins our network with its Cebu to Taipei service and vice versa, we are hopeful in the strong, positive growth at MCIA, most notably in recovery of passenger traffic. We are grateful for the strong support of our airline partners and the entire airport community,” said Neri.

The MCIAA chief added that the airport is now in the recovering stage.

“We are still facing challenges in terms of passenger traffic, especially to and from international destinations. We have not yet recovered, in terms of international flights pre-pandemic, but we are well on the way there,” said Neri.

With the addition of this new carrier, MCIA now has 13 foreign and four Philippine-based airline partners connecting 10 international destinations and 27 domestic destinations.

Latest available figures from the Department of Tourism 7 showed that Cebu welcomed 1,081 arrivals from Taiwan from January to August this year, up 751.18 percent from 127 arrivals during the same period in 2021.

From Sept. 29, 2022 until July 31, 2023, Filipinos may enjoy visa-free entry and will be allowed to stay in Taiwan for up to 14 days. This rule does not apply to those with diplomatic or official/service passports.