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Air Asia PH unit searches for CEO

/ 12:40 AM July 09, 2016

The Philippine unit of Malaysia’s Air Asia Berhad is beginning its search for a new “young and energetic” chief executive after Joy Cañeba abruptly resigned to help run her own law firm.

The leadership change comes as Air Asia Philippines seeks to post its first full year of profit in 2016, amid tough competition with larger domestic rivals like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air.


Air Asia Philippines, which has about 10 percent of the local market, announced Friday that chief operating officer Captain Dexter Comendador would be “interim” CEO effective July 30.

Comendador, a former Air Force and commercial pilot with 34 years in the aviation sector, takes the helm from Cañeba, who was named CEO in 2014.

Cañeba oversaw Air Asia Philippines’s consolidation with Zest Airways, its turnaround story and network expansion. She will resume her post as partner at the Santiago, Gaspar, Caneba & Franco law firm, the carrier said.

Air Asia Philippines chair Marianne Hontiveros said in an interview Friday that the carrier was beginning its search for a new CEO.

Hontiveros said Air Asia Philippines had already tapped external “headhunters”. She added that she was personally drawing up a shortlist of names as well.

“We want somebody that can move the company forward, that can deliver the bottom line and can ensure the organization’s safety culture,” Hontiveros said.

She said the individual did not have to be an airline executive, and the preference was for a “younger person.”

Cañeba turns 36 this November.

“It takes a lot of energy,” Hontiveros said. “A CEO has got many functions. You also need to be able to inspire.”


Air Asia Philippines operates a dozen Airbus A320s, used for domestic and regional operations. Affiliate Air Asia Bhd, led by Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes, is one of region’s largest budget airlines.

Cañeba’s exit also comes as Air Asia Philippines laid the groundwork for a $200 million initial pubic offering, likely by 2018.

“I personally would have wanted Cañeba to stay until the IPO was completed,” Hontiveros said.

In its statement, AirAsia Philippines said operations have improved “significantly” in 2015. It said passenger load, a measure of capacity utilization, was at 81 percent last year from 70 percent in 2014. Miguel R. Camus

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TAGS: Air Asia, CEO, Dexter Comendador, executive, Joy Caneba
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