AirAsia starts flights, readies expansionBy Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Malaysia’s AirAsia Inc. is poised to become a major player in the country’s air travel sector as it plots an aggressive expansion plan over the next three years.
AirAsia Inc., the Philippine unit of Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad, launched its inaugural flights out of Clark Freeport, Pampanga, on Wednesday.
The inaugural flight to Kalibo left Clark at 7 a.m. with 143 passengers, including 18 children with hearing impairment and Down Syndrome.
The flight to Davao left the airport at 10:10 am. Another flight to Kalibo was scheduled for 2:40 p.m. on the same day.
Two new Airbus A320 aircraft were used in the inaugural flights.
“These two routes are significant for us and for the Philippines because these are virgin routes. No airline has ever flown these routes in history,” former music industry executive and AirAsia Inc. president and CEO Marianne Hontiveros said.
“We want to shake up the travel industry,” she added.
Hontiveros is one of three Filipino shareholders who each own 20 percent of AirAsia Inc. Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, founder of the AirAsia group, owns the remaining 40 percent
The group’s Philippine hub in Clark is AirAsia’s fourth in the region outside its home base of Malaysia.
By 2015, the company said it would have as many as 20 Airbus A320 jets, up from four by the end of this year. The 20 planes would allow the company to fly as many as five million passengers from under a million in 2012.
Fernandes in a speech on Wednesday said the group would try to replicate its success in other Southeast Asian countries here in the Philippines.
“The Philippines is the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle of our network in Asean,” Fernandes said.
Meanwhile, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said the government would support the growth of budget airlines like AirAsia through the expansion of areas in Clark and other growing areas.
He said the government would pursue plans to put up a new passenger terminal designed for budget airlines at the Clark International Airport. The new terminal would have a capacity of 12 million passengers a year.—With a report from Jun Malig, Inquirer Central Luzon
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