Air Asia Shifts Focus to Kalibo

As the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila continues to suffer from congestion issues with limited slots available for carriers launching new routes, AirAsia Philippines has decided to concentrate its efforts on the development of a second hub at Kalibo International Airport. 

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Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
AirAsia Philippines relocated its hub from Clark International Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the hopes that basing its operations at the country's main international gateway would boost its prospects in the Philippine market. But frequent delays at the airport have resulted in aircraft burning more fuel and adding costs to the airline's operations.

According to Maan Hontiveros, President & CEO of AirAsia Philippines, aircraft have been delayed taking off and landing due to the congestion at the airport. She recalled a recent Tacloban flight that was forced into a holding pattern, delaying landing for an additional 15 minutes due to heavy traffic at Terminal 4. These delays add significant fuel cost by the minute. 

Although the carrier's operations are currently based at NAIA Terminal 4, it is trying to shift more of its flights to Terminal 3 to alleviate some of the congestion issues. In addition, with Kalibo being developed as the secondary hub of the airline, many of the budget carrier's aircraft will be relocated to Kalibo.

In an effort to achieve profitability, AirAsia is concentrating on its second hub at Kalibo International Airport where there is less congestion and less competition. The carrier will be increasing its number of daily flights between Manila and Kalibo from seven to thirteen, while it concentrates on a massive international expansion that will see the airline launch several new direct routes from Kalibo to China and South Korea.

AirAsia is banking on opening up new markets from Kalibo where it intends to launch flights to several Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Wenzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Ningbo, Changsha, Xiamen, and Hangzhou. In addition, the carrier is targeting Seoul Incheon and Pusan in South Korea. 

After Kalibo, Hontiveros indicated that AirAsia Philippines wants to expand its regional flights to other points in Southeast Asia once the domestic route network has been rationalised and consolidated. "We have applied for rights to fly to Bangkok, Singapore, and Japan," said Hontiveros. The new regional flights will be operated from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. 

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group added that while there are challenges at the carrier's hub in Manila, there is much potential in the region. "When you're at the doorstep of three large economies - South Korea, Japan, and China - the potential is very bright," said Fernandes. "Although it is constrained by the airport, we have very exciting plans outside Manila where we think we can open up new markets." 

Fernandes added that AirAsia may consider restoring operations at Clark International Airport pending the completion of a road linking Clark with Makati in 2016. "We like Clark," said Fernandes.

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