AirAsia Zest chooses Cebu, not Clark, as 2nd hub
MANILA, Philippines - The newly rebranded budget carrier AirAsia Zest has chosen Cebu as its 2nd major hub on top of its main operations at the Terminal 4 of the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The choice of the Cebu gateway comes after the local unit of Malaysian giant AirAsia suspended its operations in Clark International Airport, which is about 100 kilometers from NAIA, following its strategic partnership with Zest Air.
Zest Air's slots in NAIA-4 in the congest Manila airport was a main consideration for the deal, a hint that traffic in Clark was not enough to keep AirAsia Philippines's operations viable. (READ: AirAsia moves to Manila from Clark)
AirAsia Philippines launched its maiden domestic and international operations in Clark in March 2012 while its parent has long hailed Clark, previously positioned as the main airport for budget airlines, since it started flying in and out of the former US airbase in 2005.
In a press briefing on October 11, AirAsia Zest executive vice president and chief operating officer Joy Caneba revealed the decision to invest in Cebu airport, currently the 2nd busiest airport in the country and the main gateway to the Visayas region. The government is set to bid out a P17.5-billion modernization project to expand Cebu airport's capacity.
Previously, AirAsia Zest chairman Michael Romero said Clark is still in the radar of the regional low cost carrier, AirAsia Malaysia Berhad. On October 9, he had told reporters Clark International Airport is being considered as the local hub for AirAsia X, the parent company's long-haul brand.
In a statement on October 13, AirAsia Zest announced that it is offering "free" tickets for its Cebu flights. The promo is part of efforts to "expand operations in Cebu."
It said travelers have to pay only P353 to cover payment for tax and fees. (The promo is available via online booking at www.airasia.com from October 14 to 27 for travel from November 15, 2013 to April 14, 2014 for domestic and from December 1, 2013 to April 14, 2014 for international.)
AirAsia Zest started selling tickets for additional domestic routes and an international destination via the Mactan Cebu international airport on October 13. It added 4 new direct flights from Cebu International Airport to Kuala Lumpur and to top tourist destinations of Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Davao and Cagayan de Oro.
"The airline would fly from Cebu to Davao and Cagayan de Oro daily, and four times a week to Puerto Princesa. Likewise, it intends to fly directly from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur where passengers could take connecting flights to 85 international destinations," it said. Malaysia is the main hub of parent AirAsia.
Caneba also announced that AirAsia Zest expects to grow its passenger volume by at least 20% with the delivery of 3 more Airbus aircraft in 2014, as well as the launch of more international and domestic flights.
She said the airline is scheduled to accept the delivery of three Airbus A320 in 2014 to augment its fleet of 14 aircraft by the end-2013.
Caneba said the projected passenger growth volume next year would be higher than the expected 15% to 20% growth this 2013 with the rebranded airline that combines both the brand of AirAsia Inc. Philippines and Zest Airways Inc.
“We definitely expect an increase and improvement in passenger traffic. Zest had a very good brand but I think with the AirAsia name backing it up the world’s known low cost carrier I think that will give more leverage and comfort for the passengers," she said.
The airline executive also said the rebranded airline would be formally launched on October 21.
Ambassador Alfredo Yao who serves as president and chief executive officer of AirAsia Zest is expected to announce new international and domestic routes at the launch.
AirAsia Group chairman Tony Fernandes is also expected to attend the event. - Rappler.com