Potential competition to prevent Clark from becoming main gateway

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Too much potential competition could prevent Clark International Airport from taking over as Manila’s main gateway, even following its recent expansion, aviation think tank CAPA-Centre for Aviation said.

The Clark International Airport, located north of Manila, opened on May 2 its new passenger terminal, which has a capacity that is twice bigger than its old terminal at eight million passengers annually, and features state-of-the-art facilities, as well as touchless passenger check-in experience.

In its recent analysis, a copy of which was provided to The STAR, CAPA said the nature of the Clark International Airport has changed over the years, and at one time it was thought that it could replace the ageing and constrained Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) given its relative proximity to Metro Manila.

CAPA said that from a low-cost airline magnet, the airport’s capacity mix has swung more in favor of full service airlines, and the modern nature of its new terminal is expected to enhance that attraction.

“The question is whether or not it could usurp the Ninoy Aquino Airport in Manila as the major gateway. The answer is probably no, mainly because of other airport projects, which, if they all come to fruition, could ensure overcapacity for Manila,” CAPA said.

CAPA said the Clark International Airport is situated in direct competition with actual and projected airports serving Manila.

Potential airport projects it could be in competition with are the Sangley Point International Airport in Cavite, the New Manila Airport in Bulacan, and a possible upgrade and expansion of NAIA itself.

CAPA said the projects meant that Manila could be offering capacity for 250 million passengers a year.

“That would be far too ambitious. In 2019, there were only 48 million passengers at Ninoy Aquino, plus three million at Clark International Airport,” it said.

CAPA said recent political changes in the country also mean that everything is once again up in the air.

At present, CAPA said the Clark International Airport still lags behind NAIA for utilization as the pandemic persists in Asia-Pacific.

CAPA said what all the airport can reasonably do is to structure its offer according to the prevailing circumstances.

“It did that during the worst (so far) of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a modern facility geared toward the demands of the moment, and the airport may yet  benefit from that decision,” the aviation think tank said.

“Moreover, the decision to pursue an airport city scheme may pay dividends if it helps stimulate not only the regional, but also the national economy, “ it said.

Nonetheless, CAPA said that while Clark International Airport’s ambition to be the nation’s premier gateway is still some time off, these recent developments have shifted it firmly in that direction.


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