Clark International Airport in the Philippines has held talks with several Middle Eastern carriers, as it seeks to expand international services.

"We have had several meetings with them, and they have indicated interest to start flying from Clark," says the airport's president and CEO Victor Jose Luciano.

Among the carriers that Clark has met are Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, and Bahrain's Gulf Air, adds Luciano.

Over two million Filipinos work in the Middle East, and more than 40% of them come from hometowns within Clark's catchment area, adds Luciano.

But to persuade Middle Eastern airlines to start services from Clark, the airport needs to be upgraded, he says.

"They want things like departure lounges, but we do not have that currently," he adds.

The airport has started a two-phase expansion of the existing passenger terminal, which will be completed by May.

A second storey will be added to the terminal building. The renovations will add departure lounges, more duty-free shops and three aerobridges.

The number of check-in counters will double to 30 and baggage conveyor belts will double to four, says the airport's corporate planning manager Darwin Lacson Cunanan.

The expanded terminal will be able to handle passenger loads from Airbus A380 aircraft after May, says Luciano.

"Many Middle Eastern carriers have ordered the A380 and while our runway can handle it, our terminal is too small," he adds.

Emirates operates six A380s and has orders for 52 more. Etihad and Qatar Airways have orders for 10 and five A380s respectively, according to FlightGlobal's ACAS database.

A plan to construct a second terminal is also in the pipeline, and Clark is evaluating joint venture proposals from potential partners.

The airport had previously announced that the second terminal will be ready by February, but the project has been delayed.

"This is partly because of the financial crisis, and also because of many factors involved in the joint venture process in the Philippines," says Cunanan.

Six airlines now operate international services out of Clark: Asiana Airlines, AirAsia, Tiger Airways, Cebu Pacific, ZestAir and Spirit of Manila.

Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia and Jetstar will commence flights from Clark in the first quarter of this year, says Luciano.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news