AirAsia Zest to Increase Macau Flights After New Air Agreement

AirAsia Zest is planning to increase the number of flights it offers between Manila and Macau after a new agreement was reached between Philippine and Macau aviation authorities earlier this week. Under the new agreement signed, the current weekly number of seats permitted between the two countries will rise from 4,500 seats to 7,020 seats, enabling higher frequencies.

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Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director, Carmelo Arcilla, the new agreement will enable carriers to operate several new flights. "We're raising the seats entitlement to 7,020 weekly seats, which is roughly 5 flights a day," said Arcilla. Currently, the Manila to Macau route is served by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia Zest covering approximately 15 flights per week. Cebu Pacific also operates flights between Macau and Clark four times weekly. The Philippine carriers presently hold 3,500 weekly seats. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines hold 1,530 each, while AirAsia Zest holds the rest. 

Arcilla added that in the event that all 7,020 weekly seats should become fully utilised by the carriers, the new agreement contains a provisional clause that will automatically raise the weekly seat entitlement to 10,000 seats without the need for further negotiation. 

"The market here is relatively small given the small population base of Macau, but we see a stable market and potential for growth, especially with the infrastructure projects in town that will improve the connection linking Macau to other important cities in China, including Hong Kong," said Arcilla. "This will improve the viability of commercial services between Manila and Macau. There is a big project in the Philippines -- Entertainment City -- which would sort of connect to the entertainment business here in Macau. We're hopeful that Manila will be in the loop of travel by high rollers and gamblers, so we decided to have a new round of talks to cover this potential growth and demand."

There is currently no restrictions on flights between Macau and other cities in the Philippines outside of Manila. However, no carriers have expressed any desire yet to serve Macau from any other Philippine airports other than Manila and Clark. According to Arcilla, AirAsia Zest is likely to be the primary beneficiary of the new frequencies agreed upon in the latest air agreement. 

"Cebu Pacific has yet to fully utilise its flight capacity, while Philippine Airlines has reduced flights to Macau, but we cannot take the seating entitlement outright from Philippine Airlines," said Arcilla. "So, AirAsia Zest was forced to request temporary entitlement to run flights to Macau and now with the new memorandum we've agreed upon, AirAsia Zest will be operating on its own regular entitlements."

Previously, AirAsia Zest was only entitled to 440 seats per week under the old agreement. However, with the temporary entitlement, the carrier was able to obtain 720 seats per week, which permitted the carrier to operate flights three times per week on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Under the new agreement, AirAsia Zest plans to begin daily flights to Macau on July 1.

According to Marianne Hontiveros, Chairperson of AirAsia Zest, the plan for daily flights has already been approved by Macau's Civil Aviation Authority and is designed to provide more flight options to travellers. "Right now, we are seeing a passenger load of 70 percent, which is not all that great and can get better, but we see potential with a lot more marketing campaigns here," said Hontiveros. "We would also like to promote both individual and family travellers flying to Macau, and going back to the Philippines from Hong Kong."

According to passenger data from the Civil Aviation Authority of Macau, passenger traffic between the Philippines and Macau has dropped in the last two years. In 2012, approximately 206,688 travelled between the two countries, representing a 5.5 percent drop compared to the previous year. For 2013, the passenger volume dropped even further by 7.6 percent resulting in only 190,910 passengers. 

Hontiveros believes that the lasting impact of the murderous hijacking of a bus full of Hong Kong tourists in Manila in 2010 has influenced the performance of flights between Macau and the Philippines over the last couple of years. However, she believes that visitor perceptions about coming to the Philippines, especially those from mainland China are improving. Hontiveros added that the carrier has no plans to launch flights from Macau to any destinations in the Philippines other than Manila for the immediate future. 

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