Air Asia Philippines: The Airline of Champions

After Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao soared to victory recently over unbeaten American Chris Algieri, AirAsia is soaring high as the airline of champions after the airline recently inked a one-year deal with the PacMan to become his official airline.

air asia pacquiao
Image Source: South China Morning Post
Earlier this month, AirAsia signed an agreement with Pacquiao to become the official airline of the eight-division boxing champion. An exclusive aircraft livery was unveiled that features the Philippine boxing sensation on the aircraft's fuselage.

"I am delighted to be part of AirAsia's mission in promoting the Philippines, our Filipino talents, sports, and tourism wonders to the global stage," said Pacquiao at the Press Conference that was held in General Santos.

As part of the new agreement, AirAsia Philippines flew Pacquiao from General Santos to Macau via Manila for his fight against Algieri. Two Airbus A320-200 aircraft featuring the new Pacman livery carried Pacquiao's entourage.

According to Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, the carrier hopes to use Pacquiao's fame to elevate the carrier's profile in the Philippines. "It's a great honor for AirAsia to be chosen as the official airline of team PacMan," said Fernandes. "AirAsia's commitment in the Philippines is anchored on the same dream, to make flying more affordable, more accessible, and to provide the best quality service that every Filipino deserves."

In spite of having two chartered aircraft for his entourage that are capable of seating as many as 189 people each, space was limited on the flights. Both aircraft carried approximately 360 of Pacquiao's team members, friends, and family to and from the fight in Macau.

Commentators joked that Pacquiao may end up in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only boxer to travel with an entourage of that size. In comparison, Pacquiao's entourage was equivalent in size to twenty-four Philippine Basketball Association teams. AirAsia is highly active in the professional sporting community and currently boasts its own team in the Asean Basketball League, the AirAsia Philippines Patriots.

Although this is not the first time that Pacquiao has chartered aircraft to transport family and friends to his fights, this is the first time that he has used two aircraft. The special AirAsia flights were operated by highly experienced flight and cabin crew led by Captain Darren Acorda and Captain Rolando Ching.

According to AirAsia Zest CEO Joy Caneba, in addition to its knock-out low fares for passengers, the carrier prepared special commemorative meals for passengers and the PacMan team. "We have also prepared a special 'Three-punch combo meal' for all our passengers available on board all our flights," said Caneba. "For Pacman's entourage, we are serving our popular in-flight hot meals and kiddie snacks for his children such as Chicken Rice, Pork Adobo, Nasi Lemak, Beef Caldereta, Clubhouse Sandwich, Chicken Tomato Sandwich, and Chocolate Chip Cookies."

Caneba added that this was only the beginning of the partnership with Manny Pacquiao. "Together with Team PacMan, we will bring more tourists to the country, open new routes, provide unmatched connectivity at affordable fares and superb service. We will bring this game to a higher level," said Caneba. 

Plane spotters will be able to spot the special Manny Pacquiao branded aircraft, which will carry the Philippine flag and Pacquiao's logo from AirAsia's Philippine hubs in Manila, Cebu, and Kalibo. AirAsia currently flies domestically to Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran, and Tacloban. The airline will be adding flights from Cebu to Davao and Cagayan de Oro next month. 

air asia pacquiao
Image Source: AirAsia
The AirAsia-Pacquiao agreement originated back in September in Los Angeles when Pacquiao Associate, Joseph Jose, met Darrin Maki of AirAsia Malaysia. Both gentlemen saw a partnership opportunity because of Pacquiao's frequent need for charter planes during his fights in Macau. In addition to the chartered flights, it is expected that both sides will collaborate on marketing opportunities in the future. 

Although it is not uncommon for airlines to establish partnerships with professional sports teams, it is believed that this is the first time that a professional boxer has entered into such an endorsement. In addition, this is the first type of deal for AirAsia, which has been known for its special logo jets featuring famous personalities such as Taylor Swift. It is the first time a Filipino sports icon has been featured on an aircraft. 

On board the flight to Macau, Pacquaio expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support that he has received in his home country. "I would like to thank the Filipino people for the overflowing support and I am equally thankful that I am with my family, friends, colleagues, team mates, and supporters today in our AirAsia flight to Macau," said Pacquaio. "It's about time to show the rest of the world again what Filipinos are made of."

It is hoped that the new deal will take Pacquiao and AirAsia Philippines to new heights. "We celebrate heroes, guys and girls who come from nowhere and make their dreams come true and inspire the rest of us," said Fernandes. "Congressman Manny's story is an inspiration not only for Filipinos but to all of us who dared to dream the seemingly impossible."

AirAsia has been ranked the World's Best Low Cost Carrier for the last six consecutive years. The carrier currently has established operations in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, India, and the Philippines. "We are using Manny to promote AirAsia," said Fernandes. "When this opportunity with Pacquiao came, it was too good an opportunity to miss."

air asia pacquiao
Image Source: AirAsia
After the recent victory over Algieri, many boxing analysts are suggesting that Pacquiao is back in fighting form. AirAsia has endured its share of struggles since entering the Philippine market. Let's hope Pacquiao's victory puts AirAsia back in fighting form for the upcoming year. 


  1. AirAsia Philippine Patriots has not been participating in the ASEAN Basketball League for around 2-3 years now.

  2. Air Asia Philippines, since together with Zest Air, has been struggling for so long to be able to fly under 1 Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and to get decent slots and parking spaces (or terminal access) at NAIA to be able to grow and function properly. The solution: give Pacquiao lots of money, including free flights for himself, family and friends and in turn use Manny to force the government to act. At the same time it's a great PR stunt, attracting lots of (badly needed) attention. The 500 million that Air Asia promised to invest in the Philippines (for the Air Asia Zest expansion) would only come IF Air Asia gets what they want. It's as simple as that. Very clever Mr. Fernandez.
    ...Just my two cents

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