MAIDEN FLIGHT. PAL Express PR C5903 arrives at Loakan Airport in Baguio City at 10:29 a.m. Friday, December 16, 2022. The arrival of the De Havilland Dash 8 Series 400 Next Generation aircraft, which left Mactan International Airport at 8:50 a.m., marks the start of a four-times-a-week direct flight from Cebu to Baguio and Baguio to Cebu that will link two of the Philippines' key tourist and business destinations. (Photo courtesy of JJ Landingin)

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Friday said the opening of the Baguio-Cebu and vice versa route will further boost the economy in the region, with tourism eyed to further flourish in the Cordilleras.

"Commercial flights will catalyze the region's economic rebound as air travel serves as a barometer of economic growth," said Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista in a message delivered by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Manuel Antonio Tamayo during the program held after the arrival of the inaugural flight from Cebu.

He added that the historic inaugural flight is also expected to bring in healthy competition from other air carriers who will provide a similar air service for domestic and international flights in Baguio.

The inaugural direct flight from Cebu to Baguio was made Friday by Philippine Airlines' PAL Express via aircraft PR C5903 flying 84 passengers from Mactan, Cebu. The plane left Mactan at 8:50 a.m. and landed in Baguio at 10: 29 a.m.

The same airplane, with a passenger capacity of 86 persons, transported 70 individuals on its return flight to Mactan at 11:10 a.m.

The route will be serviced by PAL four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sunday using a De Havilland Dash 8 Series 400 Next Generation aircraft.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Department of Tourism Undersecretary Elaine Bathan joined the round-trip flight.

"Finally, as it is written, it shall be done, and it will be a continuing activity," said Rama in his message.

He described the flight as “very smooth” and shared that he was able to drink tea with Bathan during the trip.

He also took the opportunity to invite the Cordillera people to join the 2023 Sinulog festival on Jan. 15.

PAL chief operations officer Capt. Stanley Ng, of PAL, described the Cebu-Baguio flight as “piece of history” in the airline industry for being the first airline to make the first direct commercial flight for the said route.

"This marks the reopening of the Loakan airport as part of our quest to return to Baguio City after several years," Ng said.

PAL’s first flight as a newly incorporated airline was a Manila-Baguio service flown out of Neilson Airport on March 15, 1941. The Beechcraft Model 18 plane had five passengers to Baguio City.

The Cebu-Baguio direct flights will now enable those in Central Visayas and Northern Luzon to reach each destination in two hours, omitting the hassle of booking multiple connecting trips by land or air. (PNA)