aviation industry

Time to fly from Clark? Sunlight Air moves more flights to Clark airport

Lance Spencer Yu

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Time to fly from Clark? Sunlight Air moves more flights to Clark airport

GATEWAY. The Clark International Airport is an official laureate in the Prix Versailles Architecture and Design Awards.


The Clark International Airport's streamlined check-in processes, automated systems, and smooth boarding procedures are already prompting some airlines to switch from NAIA to CRK

PAMPANGA, Philippines – There are now more reasons to fly from the Clark International Airport (CRK) as domestic airline Sunlight Air continues to move more of its flights to the Pampanga gateway.

Sunlight Air launched its inaugural flight from Clark to Busuanga in Palawan – Flight 2R601 – at 2:10 pm on Monday, April 1.

The boutique airline, which has a fleet of three turboprop ATR-72-500s, also has daily flights from Clark to Siargao in Surigao del Norte, twice weekly flights to Boracay, and seasonal flights to San Vicente in Palawan.

Sunlight Air is soon launching more flights from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport too. Starting Wednesday, April 3, there will be daily flights from Cebu to Siargao in Surigao del Norte and Coron in Palawan. More flights from Cebu to Caticlan in Aklan will start in May, while flights from Cebu to destinations in Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro will follow in June.

Earlier in 2024, Sunlight Air also made a big decision to move its hub from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to CRK. Why the move? If you ask Sunlight Air chief executive officer Ryna Brito-Garcia, it’s because CRK offers a better customer experience compared to NAIA.

“It’s a lot more spacious. They have [an] innovative approach in doing things also. They have the self-check-in kiosk. They have the baggage drop. And I think that’s everything our airline stands for. That’s the reason why we chose Clark airport,” Garcia said on Monday.

Sunlight Air’s senior marketing manager John Christopher Bonifacio also explained how CRK’s innovations make for a “better travel experience” for passengers, pointing to streamlined check-in processes, automated systems, and smoother boarding procedures.

Over the years, NAIA has gained an infamous reputation – from being among the world’s worst airports, to suffering from bed bug infestations and power interruptions. CRK, which is operated by Luzon International Premiere Airport Development (LIPAD), has been named one of the world’s most beautiful airports and has been steadily growing its passenger count.

Clark airport’s potential

CRK has enough land space to support up to 80 million passengers annually once fully developed. But in the meantime, the volume of passengers at the airport was only about 1.9 million by end-2023 – around 50% below its pre-pandemic level.

The low passenger volume means that the airport can at times seem eerily empty. Some concessionaire stalls remain vacant too.

QUIET DAY. The entrance to the departure area of the Clark International Airport on the morning of April 1, 2024. Photo by Lance Spencer Yu/Rappler

This is why LIPAD aims to bring in more airlines to establish routes in Clark. For instance, LIPAD CEO and president Noel Manankil believes Sunlight Air’s decision to move its hub and operate more flights out of CRK helped strengthen the airport’s position as a “key aviation hub in the region.”

“What makes people go in the airport are actually the destinations that are available,” Manankil said, adding that Sunlight Air’s domestic network “slowly completes the destination mix” offered by the Clark airport.

Besides the inaugural Sunlight Air route, Manankil said Jetstar will also resume its Singapore routes from Clark. Another undisclosed airline is also expected to expand to CRK soon.

May effort naman ever since ang DOTr (There’s been an effort ever since by the Department of Transportation). That’s why they also created a technical working group to encourage airlines to look at Clark as an alternative to Manila. That’s still very active,” Manankil said.

Even with the upcoming rehabilitation of NAIA and the development of another international airport in Bulacan, the LIPAD head believes that CRK will still have a strong market of passengers from Central Luzon and Northern Manila.

“We are very confident…that Clark has its own catchment population,” he said. “And I think we’ve proven that as long as the flights are available, then passengers will come.”

For Manankil, the innovations in the airport can also bring a better experience for passengers regardless of where they come from. According to him, it only takes a maximum of 1 hour to go from check-in to boarding gate. – Rappler.com

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.