Caticlan airport upgrade means tourism boost for Boracay

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(CNN Philippines) — More travellers can now fly direct to Boracay, now that facilities in the Caticlan Airport have been upgraded to host larger aircraft.

The Godofredo P. Ramos Airport extended its runway to 1,800 meters from the previous length of 1,400 meters so larger aircraft can take off and land there, airport manager Felix Lizares said in an interview on Saturday.

Philippine Airlines began flying its Airbus A320 aircraft to Caticlan on Friday, while Cebu Pacific is expected to do the same this week.

Before the runway was upgraded, only smaller turboprops could operate in the Caticlan Airport, Lizares said. These could carry only around 60 passengers; narrow-body aircraft like the Airbus A320 have a capacity of about 180 passengers.

Lizares estimated a surge in passengers once airlines shifted to larger aircraft for their Caticlan routes. The airport currently sees about 1,200 travellers each day. The upgrade could bring in about 2,800 people daily.

More than the runway extension, the Caticlan Airport also built a new ramp area so it can host nine narrow-body and turboprop aircraft. The ramp area was only able to accommodate four turboprops before the renovation.

This new segment, called the Nabas Apron, is just one part of the greater redevelopment planned for the gateway to Boracay.

Boracay, known for its white sand, clear water and picturesque sunsets, saw record numbers last year, with more than 1.5 million arrivals to the island. According to Lizares, this should keep on growing so the airport must be able to keep up with the demand.

An entirely new passenger terminal will be built alongside the Nabas Apron, he explained. Once completed in early 2018, the airport will host not just domestic, but international flights as well.

Most travellers pass through the Kalibo airport to go to Boracay since it accommodates larger aircraft and international flights. However, it is roughly a three-hour journey by land and sea to get to the island.

Tourist Nica Uy tried the Kalibo route once and then never again. "It was a really long flight. It was so inconvenient to take the bus then the boat just to get to Boracay."

She welcomed the Caticlan airport upgrade, saying it would be a big help for tourists who are often looking to make the most of their time in Boracay.

Hannah Conway, a British holidaymaker, agreed. With only a week to spend in the island, she said it was important for her to cut down the travel time.

"It's a lot easier when you can fly direct... We want to go island-hopping and just explore as much as we can," she said.

Tricycle driver Eddie Daguno already feels the difference. He said he was already getting more passengers since the Caticlan airport increased its operations.

"Siyempre, mas madaming pasahero, mas makakabuti sa akin at sa pamilya ko," he said.

[Translation: Of course, the more passengers I have, the better for me and my family.]

He added, "Nung nadiscover ang Boracay, nag-improve na ng nag-improve dito. Nag-boom kung baga. Para sa akin, ito talaga 'yung biyaya ng Aklan."

[Translation: When Boracay was discovered, things started improving and improving around here. The place really boomed. For me, this is really the blessing of Aklan.]