New kid on the block: AirAsia Philippines flying soon

Rappler.com
The local arm of Asia's biggest budget carrier is the 6th commercial airline in the Philippines

 

MANILA, Philippines – The newest entrant in Philippine airline industry has just been granted the last of the required government permits to start mounting flights to both local and international destinations.

AirAsia Philippines Inc., the local affiliate of Asia’s biggest budget carrier and Malaysia-based AirAsia, is the 6th Philippine-based commercial airline that plans to go head-to-head with Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirPhil Express, Zest Air, and Seair

On Tuesday, February 7, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced that it had granted AirAsia Philippines the long awaited license to operate within the county and fly to traffic-heavy regional destinations like Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and Malaysia.

It will be operating no-frills flights using Airbus A320 aircraft from its hub in Clark.

AirAsia CEO and President Marianne B. Hontiveros announced that AirAsia’s first flights from Diosdado Macapagal Interntional Airport will be to Davao. “It’s the 75th founding anniversary of Davao on March 15th, so we hope to be flying to Davao before that.”

Hontiveros said the new airline will also mount flights to Kalibo, a jump-off point to Boracay island, considered one of the best in the world.

NEW PLAYER. AirAsia Philippines aims to offer lower fares. Photo from AirAsia Philippines

In terms of international destinations, Hontiveros disclosed, “We are looking at points that are within 4 hours range.” Hotiveros said that the Civil Aeronautics Board has designated them to fly throughout all of South East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Guam, Singapore, Cambodia and Indonesia. “Next you have to get seat allocations,” she said.

AirAsia now has to apply with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for flight schedules for its planned routes.

PERMIT. After a long wait, AirAsia Philippines joins the competitive airline industry in the Philippines. Photo by Katherine Visconti

Delay

AirAsia Philippines has been working on its government permits since key executives announced they plan to “rock the industry” way back in December 2010.

The 60-40 joint venture between a group of Filipino businessmen and Tony Fernandes-led AirAsia International Ltd. was formally launched in August 2011 with the arrival of its first aircraft that came straight out of Airbus’ headquarters in France.
 
The 2nd Airbus A320 arrived not long after, but both just sat unused in Clark as the airline executives waited for necessary government permits.



CAAP chief Ramon Gutierrez explained to Rappler on Tuesday that the delay was attributed mainly to the time it took to process the requirements. AirAsia is the first airline in the Philippines to pass through the new requirements instituted in 2008 after Philippine aviation was downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2 by the United States Federal Aviation Administration. 

Gutierrez explained, “AirAsia is like our test case to comply with the new requirements.” He added, “It took them a year because there are 5 pieces of the certification process: letter of intent, submission of requirements, review, a demonstration, and the last is the approval of the certificate.” 

Social media

“It’s been a long process and it’s burned a lot of money for us but we’re going to make up for it,” shared Maan Hontiveros, the CEO and one of the 3 local shareholders of the airline. (The other Filipino shareholders are businessmen Tonyboy Cojuangco and Michael Romero.)

Hontiveros had said AirAsia will help stimulate the local market further. Passengers taking flights to and from local destinations reached 19 million in 2011.

“We aim to give the best lowest rates possible,” she reiterated Tuesday.

“We are really developing Clark as a hub so we are not looking at clawing any passengers from the other airline, we’d like to grow the seats. We’re giving people a choice now,” she added.

AirAsia Philippines will also actively market its fares and flights via social media. “AirAsia Inc. keeps abreast with the social media community via Facebook and Twitter accounts. Guests are able to receive real-time updates on latest promotions and interact via facebook.com/AirAsiaPhilippines and twitter.com/AirAsiaPh,” the airline said in a statement. – Rappler.com