Despite rising tensions in the region, Philippine carriers are keen on growing their operations in the Middle East.
Economic risks are being highlighted globally, including the Philippines, which has millions of workers in that region, following a diplomatic crisis triggered by the Saudi execution of a Shiite cleric.
For Philippine Airlines, however, it was business as usual. PAL said it was on schedule to add a new route to Saudi Arabia this month.
“PAL flights slated this month to Kuwait and Jeddah are green and go. The Middle East expansion continues. Kuwait flights commence on Jan. 17 and Jeddah flights, Jan. 19,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in a text message.
Carriers serving these routes are kept busy by the large number of Filipinos either living or working in the Middle East. The Department of Foreign Affairs estimates that there are about 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers deployed in the region, with about 800,000 based in Saudi Arabia alone.
For PAL, the move to Kuwait and Jeddah is aimed at supporting its operations in the Middle East, which currently include flights to Dubai, Riyadh, Dammam and Abu Dhabi, think tank CAPA said in a recent report.
Flights to Dubai, in particular, have been challenging for PAL since these were launched around the same time Cebu Pacific launched its rival service, CAPA said.
Gulf carriers are also increasing their presence in the Philippines.
Dubai-based Emirates is reviving flights to Clark International Airport and is launching flights to Cebu on March 30, 2016. The move followed air talks between the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines in August last year.