Smaller planes needed: Island hopping in the Philippines

Seaplane charters prove a great way for incentive groups to reach some of the country's more remote locations.

Seaplanes could save time and also offer incentive groups an exciting way to travel in the Philippines.
Seaplanes could save time and also offer incentive groups an exciting way to travel in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Airtrav

Forget (aero) planes, trains, automobiles and ferries. Groups looking to host a meeting or incentive on one of the Philippines’ many island resorts could opt to travel there in style via seaplane.

Popular destinations such as Boracay, Puerto Galera and Palawan are difficult to access for those on a tight schedule, as the shortage of land-based regional airports in these destinations means taking a long ferry journey. But groups can now fly there via seaplane, with one company operating the country’s only scheduled seaplane service from the capital, Manila.

Airtrav, which operates three flights a day from its headquarters at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport says its seaplanes can land directly next to islands such as Boracay, Puerto Galera or Palawan, with the longest journey (to Palawan), typically taking around 100 minutes.

Audrey Ngui, Airtrav’s marketing manager, says that extending seaplane routes would attract more island-hopping visitors, who often find commercial flight schedules inconvenient. The form of transport could save time and also offer an exciting way to travel, but Ngui says there can be misconceptions about seaplanes, where they are viewed as something of a novelty. This means governments can sometimes be initially reluctant to approve new locations, fearing that the plane might damage coral reefs or disturb marine life.

“We point out that as a seaplane floats on the water, it makes no more disturbance than a boat and we always work with the local government to minimise disruption", she says.

Airtrav says it also researches the exact maritime locations carefully. Protected bays, coves and lagoons offer smoother landing spots than open water.

The company has one Cessna Grand Caravan EX Amphibian, a single-engine airplane that seats eight passengers, with space for two crew.

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