Thursday, November 6, 2008

La Union airport fails to attract flights despite recent upgrade

The San Fernando City Airport in La Union province has failed to attract enough airlines even though it was recently upgraded to accommodate larger aircraft. 

Airport managers are currently in talks with airlines to serve the facility designed to accommodate Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320, Catherine T. Bada, vice president for airport operations said. 

Airline companies seek assurance that flights mounted to and from the airport would be sustainable, Bada said. 

Flights to the airport declined in the 1980s owing to low passenger volumes. Although Asian Spirit mounted a regular service to the airport during the past few years, it was temporarily suspended after expansion was undertaken. 

Although intended to boost commerce and tourism in Region 1, especially in Baguio City and La Union, the airport is currently being used for chartered flights of private and government corporations. These entities include the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co., and various exporters at the Poro Point Freeport Zone. The airport is also used by flying schools. 

Approximately P565 million was spent for the airport, which is currently under the supervision of the Poro Point Management Corp. (PPMC), a unit of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). 

The facility’s enhancements include runway extension and widening to 2,120 from 1,320 meters and to 45 from 36 meters respectively. A new control tower was also built while airside facilities, air navigation systems and support facilities were enhanced and constructed based on the requirements of the International Civil Aeronautics Organization. 

Before its rehabilitation, the San Fernando facility was considered as a secondary airport. Besides serving as an alternative to the Loakan Airport in Baguio City, the airport could only accommodate turbo prop planes and the C-130 cargo plane of the Philippine Airforce. 

Although the BCDA is bankrolling the airport’s entire upgrade—worth P1.8 billion—it is still is holding some P1.2 billion for the construction of the passenger terminal building, among other structures, as it waits for the airport’s operations to become viable

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