The Yao Group of Companies has acquired Asian Spirit, the country’s first and only cooperative airline concentrating on least traveled routes, in possible merger with Southeast Asian Airlines (SeaAir), a chartered flight airline that the company is also acquiring.
A source privy to the negotiation said that company chairman Alfredo Yao signed the purchase agreement for a total buyout of Asian Spirit middle of last week. The source, however, did not reveal the amount involved in the buy-out.
The source further noted that Asian Spirit may be merged with Seair.
A top official said that Yao noted the potential of air travel given the booming tourism business not just in the Philippines but in the entire Asian region.
This aggressive homegrown company, famous for its beverage products under the Zesto group, is eyeing for a majority 60 percent stake in SeaAir.
Asian Spirit was established by the Airline Employees Cooperative (AEC), a group of 36 founding members with varied airline discipline, in September 1995 as a domestic passenger airline with the mission to operate scheduled services to tourist destinations and secondary and tertiary airports where other airlines don’t dare to operate.
Asian Spirit endeavors to develop other destinations with tourism potentials, in line with the Department of Tourism’s Master Plan. The AEC is registered with the Cooperative Development Authority under the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines and other governing agencies.
The company made a stir when it flew to secondary and tertiary routes that have often been neglected and without dependable airline service.
It flew to San Jose, Cauayan, Boracay, Masbate, Virac, Daet, Batanes and Tablas developing these routes and re-established linkage with Mainila.
Antonio G. Buendia Jr. served as company president and Joaquino Ernesto L. Po as vice-president.
The company, however, suffered financially as bigger airlines put up a strong competition in the routes that Asian Spirit had developed and cultivated.
For instance, it used to fly to Tagbilaran but when Cebu Pacific dumped its rates Asian Spirit was forced to cease serving the Tagbilaran route.
The source said that with the acquisition of Asian Spirit, the Yao Group is expected to merge it with Seair, a charteredflight airline operating short routes in the country’s tourist destination islands, to beef up its operations.
The source added that Yao had finalized a 60-percent stake in Seair late last year.
Under the plan, the Yao Group plans to expand SeaAir’s limited chartered flight operations in the country as well as fly to other countries in the region.
SeaAir had plans to compete in the booming regional budget air travel with the expansion of its operations to Singapore and Macau after it forged an agreement with Tiger airways for a long term lease of two A320s.
The company is just awaiting for an approval by the Civil Aeronautics Board to fly the international routes.
Earlier, the company also planned to fly to Macau and Singapore using two A320s from the Diosdado Macalapagal International Airport in Clark .
The two aircrafts will be added to Seair’s existing fleet of 7 LET-410 planes, four Dornier 328 aircraft, the restored vintage Do24ATT seaplane.
Once all the necessary clearances obtained, the company may proceed with its plan to ask for incentive package before the Board of Investments.
It is the first 135 airline of the Philippines which complies with ISO 2001 standards.
At present, SeaAir operates its own in-house maintenance is located in an approx. 1,200 sq. meters facility at Clark Airfield, Pampanga.
It has 13 aircraft of which 8 are 19-seater Let 410. The remaining 5 aircraft are available for hire and consist of 2 Dornier-28 ( 9 passengers) , 1 Piper Cherokee ( 3 passengers),1 Alouette and 1 Citabria.
It flies to select destinations in the country including Clark, Antique, Bacolod , Baguio , Baler, Bantayan, Basco, Caticlan and Kalibo, Busuanga, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Calbayog, Camiguin Catarman, Zamboanga, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.