With the travel season at its peak, the last direct flight between the Philippines and Europe flew out of Manila last Sunday. Air France-KLM stuck it out the longest among the European carriers, hoping that the Philippine government would change its mind about two taxes that airline companies see as discriminatory for those operating long-haul flights. But the government was unmoved.
AF-KLM at least will still continue to fly to Manila, but from a shorter distance. Other European carriers such as Lufthansa and SAS pulled out of the country altogether years ago. Manila will be at the tail end of AF-KLM’s itinerary from Europe, with the crew no longer staying overnight in Manila.
This means a loss of about 20,000 nights a year for at least one five-star hotel in Metro Manila. The hotel could probably make up for the lost bookings if more travelers would come to the country. In this the government shouldn’t pin its hopes too much on European travelers. The Philippines’ security rating downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration not only prevents the country’s own carriers from flying to Europe and several key cities in the United States, but also prevents Europeans from getting insurance coverage while traveling in the Philippines.
In enticing European travelers, the Philippines will be competing with its Southeast Asian neighbors such as Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, where European carriers have direct flights. The accessibility of these countries from Europe surely contribute to the fact that their foreign tourist arrivals are at least three times that of the Philippines, with many of the travelers Europeans.
Yesterday, AF-KLM announced it would push through with the end of its direct flights between Manila and Europe despite the approval on second reading by the House of Representatives of a bill lifting the common carrier tax. The flight to Europe, now with a stopover in Taipei, has also been moved to evening and dubbed “Good night, Manila, good morning Europe.” The government should hope it does not turn into “goodbye, Manila” for good.