By Nikka Garriga
CLARK, PAMPANGA—Philippines AirAsia's inaugural flights to Davao and Kalibo marked the budget carrier's long-term agenda of placing the country's tourism industry at the center of the ASEAN market.
“The Philippines is a robust and growing market. We are here because we are confident of its growth. With our pioneering flights and with the options we offer, millions of Southeast Asians will finally access the Philippines from various parts of the ASEAN region,” said AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes.
He likewise noted the “huge appetite” of foreign visitors to visit the country.
“We intend to accelerate the growth by bringing in more planes. There is a huge appetite that hasn't been fulfilled in this part of the world yet, there is big tourism potential here,” said Fernandes.
The carrier currently uses two brand new Airbus A320 and is expecting to have two more additional units within the year.
It flies to Kalibo and Davao from the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport here twice daily and will be adding Puerto Princesa in Palawan to its list of destinations by next month.
“Beyond servicing the needs of our passengers and pioneering the new routes, we are here to revolutionize domestic and international air travel. Our brand will be characterized by transparency, efficiency, and high value service,” said AirAsia Inc. CEO Maan Hontiveros.
The first flight, PQ7001, left for Kalibo with 143 guests on-board including 18 children with hearing impairment and Down syndrome, who were on an educational trip along with their parents.
Philippines AirAsia is hoping to tap into the underserved Northern and Central Luzon market and offer Manila passengers a viable low-fare flying alternative.
As a Filipino low cost carrier, Fernandes also aims to give more Filipinos the opportunity to travel and empower small and micro entrepreneurs by giving them access to foreign markets.
“We see a lot of potential for Pinoys to travel more. AirAsia provides a fantastic network for businessmen, especially small and medium enterprises to grow their business outside ASEAN,” he said.
AirAsia is a 60-40 venture between Filipino investors including Hontiveros, Antonio “Tony” Cojuangco and Michael Romero, while AirAsia International—a wholly-owned subsidiary of AirAsia Berhad—covers the remaining 40 percent.
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