United to fly between Tokyo, Cebu

United to fly between Tokyo, Cebu
Photo from United Airlines' Facebook page

TOURISM stakeholders in Cebu welcomed United Airlines’ plan to mount nonstop flights between Tokyo and Cebu starting July 31, 2024, citing this will further boost foreign arrivals and foster strong business connections.

On Thursday, March 7, United Airlines announced it will expand its global network by introducing three new international destinations including Tokyo/Narita-Cebu “for the first time in its history.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome United Airlines onboard. This exciting partnership significantly broadens our route network, aligning perfectly with our ultimate vision of positioning Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) as the premier gateway to tourism in the Philippines,” said MCIA chief executive office Athanasios Titonis in a statement.

“This collaboration with United Airlines is just the beginning of our ambitious plans to establish Cebu as the primary tourism airport hub in the Philippines. We are actively pursuing numerous partnerships to achieve this goal. Our vision extends beyond simply boosting tourism in Cebu; we are dedicated to uplifting the entire country as a whole,” he added.

According to the airline’s website, United Airlines will be the only US carrier to fly to Cebu with daily flights on 737-800 aircraft, which will connect the island to United’s flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Newark-New York and Houston to Tokyo-Narita.

According to a report of the Aviation Updates Philippines, United Airlines will depart from Tokyo-Narita at 5:25 p.m. (UTC+9) and will arrive in Cebu at 9:35 p.m. (UTC+8). The return flight departs from Cebu at 9:15 a.m. and arrives in Tokyo at 3:20 p.m.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa general manager Brian Noel, in an interview on Friday, March 8, said tourism players can expect a boost in tourism and business soon.

“The Japanese market has always been one of our top markets, so we welcome this exciting news as more flights mean better accessibility for our guests and more guest traffic for Cebu,” said Noel, adding that at present the Japanese market comprises 10 to 15 percent of the resort’s total foreign market.

“As one well-connected airline servicing various routes and being the only US carrier to fly to Cebu daily, we expect better flight connections not just for Japanese guests but also for Americans, especially Balikbayan travelers to and from the US,” he said.

“With this, we are even more upbeat and always ready for a better and busier 2024,” he said.

Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, expressed that United Airlines’ arrival in Cebu will be advantageous for the province, which is still striving to fully restore its tourism sector to pre-pandemic levels.

Julius Neri Jr., general manager of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority, remarked that this new route will not only bolster the tourism sector but also facilitate trade exchanges between cities.

“We are very happy to be able to open new markets for tourists and businessmen. We will continue to strive to develop even more new markets around the world,” he said.

United Airlines is also the only US carrier to offer transpacific service to the Philippines with its daily flights between San Francisco and Manila, and also flies to Manila from Guam and Palau. It entered the Philippines skies in 2023.

In 2023, Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists Inc., said Cebu’s tourism sector has been waiting for the big return of Japanese tourists.

She said the Japanese are now open to traveling again to Cebu, but there aren’t enough seats from Japan to Cebu.

Tourism arrivals 2024

The Philippines has so far tallied 1,227,815 international tourists as of March 5, according to the Department of Tourism.

Foreign tourist arrivals took the lion’s share, with 1,160,129 or 94.49 percent. Meanwhile, 67,686 or 5.51 percent consist of overseas Filipinos.

In terms of international visitor arrivals, South Korea remains the country’s top source market for visitors with 349,956 or 28.50 percent of the total, followed by the US with 195,603 or 15.93 percent, China with 85,876 (6.99 percent), Japan with 73,159 (5.96 percent) and Canada with 50,555 (4.12 percent).

Completing the list are Australia with 50,488 (4.11 percent), Taiwan with 42,955 (3.50 percent), the United Kingdom with 30,507 (2.48 percent), Singapore with 25,253 (2.06 percent) and Germany with 20,816 (1.70 percent).

Aside from Cebu-Tokyo/Narita, United Airlines is also adding new non-stop flights between New York/Newark-Marrakesh, Morocco and Houston-Medellin, Colombia.

The airline will also increase flying to popular destinations across the globe including Hong Kong; Seoul, South Korea; and Porto, Portugal. It will also add four weekly flights between Los Angeles and Shanghai as the Chinese and US governments recently agreed to increase flights between the two countries.

“We have consistently been ahead of the curve in finding hidden gem destinations for our customers to explore and remain committed to providing the most unique slate of travel options for their adventures abroad,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of Global Network Planning and Alliances, in a statement.

“With our leading global network and elevated inflight experience, United has become the airline of choice for discerning customers looking for experiences they can’t have with any other carrier,” he said.


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