CLARK, Philippines (eTN) – AirAsia group’s newest subsidiary in Southeast Asia is on the last track before takeoff. Last Monday, Clark International Airport – a former US base located 80 km north of Manila – saw the arrival of AirAsia Philippines’ first aircraft. The Airbus A320 carried 29 people, including Marianne Hontiveros, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Philippines; HE Mercedes Tuason, Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican; several Filipino media; as well as an all-Filipino crew.
The Airbus A320 flew direct from Toulouse, the headquarters of Airbus Industrie. It is the first among four aircraft that will be delivered to AirAsia Philippines in its first year of operation. The second aircraft will be delivered later this year, with another two due to arrive during 2012. Witnessing AirAsia Philippines’ first landing were Victor Jose I. Luciano, President and CEO of Clark International Airport Corporation; Felipe Antonio Remollo, President and CEO of Clark Development Corporation; and Alberto Lim, outgoing Secretary of the Department of Tourism.
AirAsia Philippines hopes to receive its certification from the government to start commercial operations by October. The first routes to be served will be regional destinations with Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. Once the second aircraft arrives, the airline plans to also launch routes to Bangkok and Seoul Incheon and to start domestic routes to Kalibo and Puerto Princesa. All the routes will complement the carrier’s current network from Clark to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.
“We will be substantially cheaper than our competitors,” promised AirAsia Philippines Chief Executive Officer Marianne Hontiveros during a press conference at Clark Airport. The CEO also explained that AirAsia Philippines has the ambition to turn Clark into a major transfer gateway between Southeast Asia and the United States. Mrs. Hontiveros remains extremely confident of AirAsia’s success despite strong competition to be expected not only from Philippine Airlines but also from the Philippines biggest low-cost carrier, Cebu Pacific. “We’re banking on the very strong brand of AirAsia. As an archipelagic country, air travel is necessary for Filipinos, and we are here to serve and help them stay or be better connected with their families and friends,” she indicated.
AirAsia Philippines is assured to be entirely supported by the current Filipino government, as 60% of the shares are in the hands of Antonio Cojuangco, a cousin of Filipino President Benigno Aquino.