India and Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 12th July 2018 to revise the Air Services Agreement (ASA) and increase the frequency entitlement from the current seven frequencies per week to take it to 28.
While India was represented by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) represented Philippines. The revision allows carriers from Philippines to operate flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Indian carriers can operate to Manila and the Indian side can nominate three other cities at a later date. The existing bilateral agreement allows Bangkok as an intermediate point with full fifth freedom rights for carriers of both countries and the new agreement continues with this arrangement. India has also opened up 18 points in the country to have open skies with any point in Philippines.
Philippines Airlines has been planning to resume flights to India for the last few months. The airline operated one-stop flights to Delhi until 2011. The airline has appointed Bird Travels as its local representative in India. Cebu Pacific and Philippines Air Asia are the other carriers in Philippines and both could be interested to start flights to India. The later already has a subsidiary in India while the former is the market leader in Philippines.
Jet Airways had come close to launch flights between Mumbai and Manila in 2012 but the plan was dropped even before the first flight. Manila, Cebu and Davao are the top three airports in Philippines but it is unlikely that the Indian side would ask for flying to airports beyond Manila.
As per media reports, the bilateral trade between the two countries is close to $ 2 billion, with exports from India being three-fourth of the value. Indian’s are also contributing to the travel industry with increased spending over the last decade. India has been focusing on connectivity with countries in ASEAN with its look east policy and the country currently has direct scheduled flights to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. While Vietnam has seasonal charter connectivity to India, scheduled services are expected soon. Philippines is the largest ASEAN country which lacks air connectivity with India with the others being Laos, Cambodia and Brunei.
Philippines is the twelfth most populated country in the world and seen huge influx of tourists in the last few years. Indian tourists have been flocking Philippines lately with a growth of over 20% as per statistics quoted by Philippines tourism board.
India already has direct flights to Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and VietJet – the Vietnamese low cost carrier has been planning scheduled services to New Delhi from Vietnam for the last few years. VietJet already connects Gaya to Ho Chi Minh City with seasonal charter flights. IndiGo and Spicejet already fly to Bangkok and could explore onward flights to Manila.
The last agreement was signed in 2005 and was a revision of the first one signed between the two countries in 1949.