Clark International Airport could lose its last remaining long-haul service after the Philippines and Qatar agreed to an expanded Air Service Agreement that will grant Qatar Airways up to fourteen flights per week between Manila and Doha. Last week, an amended Air Service Agreement was signed in Qatar, granting an additional six flights weekly between Manila and Doha. Previously, only eight flights weekly were permitted between the two cities. The new agreement has also granted unlimited traffic rights from Qatar to Clark, Cebu, and Davao.
Qatar Airways has been operating direct flights from Doha to Manila and Clark due to an inability to acquire additional traffic rights to Manila. Flights are currently operated eight times weekly to Manila and seven times weekly to Clark. With the amended air services agreement in place, the Qatar flag carrier now has the opportunity to shift its flights to Manila, where it previously operated fourteen flights weekly.
Qatar Airways will not be the first long-haul flight to have retreated from Clark International Airport. Last year, Emirates revealed that it would also be cancelling its service to Clark. Although the Philippine government has long been promoting Clark as the Manila alternative airport, many of the airlines that have attempted to serve the airport have failed to gain traction. A year earlier, Air Asia Philippines announced that it would shift its Philippine hub from Clark International Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. However, not all carriers have given up on Clark Airport. South Korean budget carrier Jin Air recently revealed that it would upgrade its direct flights from Clark to Seoul-Incheon to daily service. Although Qatar Airways will enjoy an increase in the number of flights it can operate to Manila, it will also face an increase in competition as Cebu Pacific prepares to launch direct flights to Doha on June 5. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have each been granted seven slots between Manila and Doha. However, Cebu Pacific is expected to launch the route with only two flights weekly.
It remains unclear if Qatar Airways will shift its entire flight operations back to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, or if it will increase service to Manila, while maintaining its Clark schedule. The Qatar carrier has yet to make any public announcements. Although some airlines may doubt the viability of Clark International Airport as an alternative to Manila in the long-term, the Philippine government continues to push forward with development of Clark beginning with the construction of a new P7.2 billion passenger terminal.