LEGAZPI CITY (13-Oct-2012/PNA) – A small yet new domestic airline is flying the Manila-Catanduanes route starting this month to give more life to the booming ecotourism industry in the island province.
SkyJet Airlines, also known as Magnum Air, Inc. had already secured a temporary permit from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to operate and fly to “unserved or underserved” destinations in the country with great tourism potentials like Catanduanes.
SkyJet’s Catanduanes flights are tentatively set to start on the third week of this month.Catanduanes is known as the “Eco-Adventure Paradise”.
In a statement over the weekend, Catanduanes’s lone congressional district representative Cesar Sarmiento said the airline is just completing other requirements including the approval of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for airport slot to be able to fly the route.
SkyJet will also initially fly to three other destinations in the country– Basco in Batanes, Catarman in Northern Samar and Surigao.
To date, only Cebu Pacific Airlines is operating in Catanduanes after Zest Airways pulled out last July causing inconvenience to tourists and other passengers, Sarmiento said.
SkyJet will use its leased 94-seater British Aerospace BAE146-200 to serve the Catanduanes-Manila route.
Leased from Lionair Inc. with an option to buy, the four-engine Skyjet’s flight time between Catanduanes and Manila will be just 40 minutes, shaving 25 minutes off ZestAir’s usual flight duration.
It will fly to Virac on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, which would ensure that there will be daily airplane flights to the island given that Cebu Pacific flies the route only during Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
At present, Skyjet which has two BAE146-200s and a Dornier 328 charter plane, with a lighter, 72-seater BAE 146-100 aircraft set to be acquired flies to Batanes three times a week, according to Sarmiento.
“This aircraft is specifically made for short landing and takeoff even on unpaved runways and air strips,” Sarmiento, who helped in persuading the new airline to serve Catanduanes following the ZestAir pull out said.
SkyJet had chosen Catanduanes as a destination for its commercial flights because of the province’s striking tourism potential being a perfect place for career-driven working men and women who need some days away from the noisy, busy and chaotic urban life, SkyJet chief executive officer Joel Mendoza who also heads the Batanes Cultural Travel Agency (BCTA) said in separate statement.
“We are going to help this Bicol island province promote its tourism destinations,” Mendoza said.
ZestAir’s indefinite suspension of its services to Catanduanes since July 1, Sarmiento said delivered a major impact on the island’s trade and tourism industry as it used to account for about 30 percent of the 80 tons air cargo shipment and transported 45 percent of the 43,279 passengers who flew in and out of Virac in 2011. (PNA)