Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baguio airport loses last commercial carrier

BAGUIO CITY – The Loakan airport here is now considered technically closed because the lone commercial airline company servicing the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route has stopped its operations.

Authorities said Asian Spirit, the only airline utilizing the local airport in this mountain resort city, stopped its operations due to a reported change in management, leaving the city with no commercial flights to ferry tourists who want to travel by air.Mary Sulyn Sagorsor, the airport’s officer-in-charge, said Asian Spirit is now called Zest Airways but its management has not yet decided whether or not to continue servicing the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route.Sagorsor said Loakan airport will still be open to chartered flights and military planes until such time that other commercial carriers consider servicing the abandoned route.Local tourism industry stakeholders fear the decision to stop Asian Spirit’s operations will cause a big setback in the city’s booming tourism industry which is giving life to local businesses.Purifacasion Molintas, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in the Cordilleras, said the absence of flights to the city would mean heavy losses for both the private and government sectors in terms of income, tourism and business operations.Molintas said each tourist spends an average of P2,500 per day. Tourists start flocking to the city starting November until May because of the conducive weather condition that is ideal as an escape from the tremendous humidity in the lowlands.Sagorsor denied that Asian Spirit stopped its operations in the city because it was a losing venture. She claimed the airline was actually earning but the lack of smaller aircrafts that can cater to the demand of more flights prompted management to give up the route.Another airline, Sea Air, has reportedly agreed to service the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route but it requires a general sales office in the city which is still not available as of presstime.Under existing airline policies, at least ten seats must be paid by the general sales agent but the actual condition in the city could not meet such requirement. Still, stakeholders are clamoring for a regular flight here to ensure the continuous influx of tourists to spice up the local economy of the Cordillera as a whole.

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