Showing posts with label Air Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Air Asia. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Air Asia Orders 100 Airbus A321neo Aircraft

AirAsia and Airbus have announced a firm order for 100 Airbus A321neo aircraft at the 2016 Farnborough Airshow. The move represents a shift away from AirAsia's exclusive fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft as the carrier attempts to meet growing demand at congested airports in Asia.

airasia a321
Image Source: Airbus
AirAsia is currently the largest operator of Airbus single aisle aircraft. With the announcement of an additional 100 aircraft, AirAsia has ordered a total of 575 A320 family aircraft from Airbus. Currently, Airbus has delivered more than 170 A320 aircraft to the AirAsia family including its affiliates in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. However, this is the first order for the 240-seat Airbus A321 aircraft placed by the Asian budget carrier, recently voted World's Best Low-Cost Airline for the eighth consecutive year.

AirAsia plans to use the aircraft to increase capacity, while enjoying the lowest operating costs in the single aisle aircraft category by leveraging the increased efficiency and higher capacity of the A321neo on high-density routes. Currently, AirAsia's A320 fleet seats 180 passengers. The new version of the A321neo has the ability to seat up to 240 passengers, which will provide AirAsia with 33% more capacity that will enable the carrier to optimise service on high-density routes.

According to AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, the carrier  recorded a robust load factor in the first quarter of 2016 and it is believed that the positive momentum will continue well into the future. "AirAsia Group currently operates close to 1,000 flights per day to more than 120 destinations in 24 countries. The A321neo will help us to meet ongoing strong demand as well as further reduce our cost per Available Seat Kilometre across the group, which will translate to lower air fares for our guests," said Fernandes. 

Congestion at airports in Southeast Asia remains a major problem for carriers that are trying to meet growing demand. This is especially evident at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, where slots are at a premium due to their limited availability. This has triggered both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, the nation's largest low-cost carrier, to also place orders for the larger A321 aircraft. 

Meanwhile, AirAsia Philippines faces a similar problem in that the only way it can expand capacity in Manila is to increase the size of aircraft it utilises on existing flights, as increasing the number of flights out of Manila is not possible at this time. That makes it highly likely that some of the new A321 aircraft ordered by AirAsia will be headed for the carrier's Philippine unit.

"The A321neo will be operated on our most popular routes and especially at airports with infrastructure constraints. It will allow us to bring higher passenger volumes with the same slots, therefore providing immediate benefits to the airports. These include, among others, more efficient operations, higher revenues from passenger service charges, and more airport retail purchases. We will also continue to maintain our 25-minute turnaround with two or three-step boarding where permitted to ensure on-time performance," added Fernandes.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fernandes: Big Prize for Air Asia in the Philippines

Southeast Asia's largest low-cost airline, AirAsia, is predicting that 2016 will be a better year and that its Philippine affiliate is poised for growth as passenger numbers rise. According to airline records, AirAsia Philippines posted the highest load factor growth of all its affiliates in the third quarter of 2015.

fernandes philippines
Image Source: Rappler
In a report published by Rappler, Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, expressed optimism for his Philippine affiliate. "I am predicting a big year in 2016 and I am very confident Filipinos are going to love our products," said Fernandes on the sidelines of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Manila. "In terms of passenger traffic, the Philippines is actually the best," added Fernandes. "We are optimistic. We will keep discovering new places and new things. It is a challenge here, but there is a big prize at the end of the day in the Philippines."

In the third quarter of 2015, AirAsia Philippines recorded a load factor of 84 percent, representing a 19 percent increase over the same period last year. An airline's load factor is a measure of aircraft seat occupancy. With the Philippine unit posting the highest load factor increase in the third quarter among AirAsia affiliates, Fernandes remains optimistic that the budget carrier will post a profit in the next quarter. "For the fourth quarter, we will make money, which is great and I am super confident going forward," stated Fernandes.

AirAsia Philippines continues to optimize its operations in the midst of a re-fleeting program in an effort to reach profitability. "Philippines AirAsia's re-fleeting plan is also on track where older aircraft that were acquired during the acquisition of Zest Air will be sold or targeted to be returned to third party lessors," added Fernandes. "This will help the associate to continue reducing its cost further. Network optimisation is in place and the number of agents will also be increased in the Philippines."

Shareholders of the carrier are planning to invest additional capital into the airline to fund the lease of an additional five A320 aircraft in 2016. The Philippine budget carrier is planning a $200-million initial public offering in the first quarter of 2018, as it nears the completion of its re-fleeting program and streamlining of operations. "More investments will come after IPO, but we do not want to announce what we are going to do because then other airlines will copy us," said Fernandes.

For now, AirAsia Philippines will continue to focus on its short-haul operations even after the initial public offering. However, it did not rule out the possibility of long-haul flights operated by AirAsia X in the future. "It will probably be the next CEO who looks at long haul, not me," noted Fernandes. He added that the carrier has no interest in the US market until they have exhausted the potential of the ASEAN market. "You set the doorsteps of China, Philippines, Japan, and Korea. On the other side, you have a 700-million ASEAN market, with most of these people not having been to the Philippines yet," Fernandes added.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Philippines is planning flights to Japan for 2016 as it prepares to increase its footprint in the international market. The budget carrier recently acquired unused entitlements previously held by Philippine Airlines. But for now, the focus will remain on China. "We are able to get new entitlements to Japan," said AirAsia Philippines CEO Joy Cañeba. "Maybe by late next year we will fly to Japan because in the first half, I will be focused on the China routes." 

Cañeba added that AirAsia Philippines is planning to operate flights to Tokyo's Haneda Airport, which is closer to the city centre and preferred by business travellers. Philippine Airlines and Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways currently operate service to the airport from Manila. 

There is currently no low-cost operator flying between the Philippines and Haneda Airport. However, if the plan does not succeed, AirAsia will fly to Tokyo Narita Airport, where it faces competition from Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Philippine Airlines, and Cebu Pacific.

Last month, the Civil Aeronautics Board approved the petition to allow AirAsia Philippines to operate as a single company with just a single certificate. The new company named Philippines Air Asia Inc, replaces AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia Zest.

References: Rappler

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Philippine Airlines Apply for Flights to Russia

After the successful expansion of the air services agreement between Russia and the Philippines, the nation's three largest carriers have all submitted their intent to the Civil Aeronautics Board to operate flights between the Philippines and Russia. According to an article in the Manila Times, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia are all planning to tap into the large Russian market in an effort to further develop tourism.

Image Copyright: Maks Maydachenko/Flickr
Philippine Airlines has applied for flights to link the capital cities of each nation. PAL would like to operate five weekly flights between Manila and Moscow using an Airbus A330-300 aircraft. In addition, the national flag carrier also plans to operate flights to Khabarovsk from both Manila and Cebu with a narrow-body aircraft. Flights would be offered to Khabarovsk four times weekly from Cebu and three times weekly from Manila.

Cebu Pacific plans to add Moscow as part of its low-cost carrier long-haul network. The budget carrier is planning to link Manila and Moscow three times weekly with its 436-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft. In addition, Cebu Pacific also plans to serve Vladivostok from Manila three times weekly with an Airbus A320.

AirAsia Zest plans to link Vladivostok to its hub at Kalibo International Airport with four weekly flights aboard A320 aircraft. Flights would provide Russian tourists with a direct flight to the popular resort island of Boracay. 

The Department of Tourism has identified Russia as one of its top target markets. The Philippine government has already increased visa free entry to the Philippines for Russian tourists from 21 days to 30 days in an effort to attract more Russians to the various holiday hotspots around the country. 

In 2014, approximately 40,000 Russians visited the Philippines with numbers rising sharply each year. It is estimated that the average Russian tourist will spend USD $1,000 on each visit to the Philippines. It is hoped that the introduction of regularly scheduled flights all year long will help to increase the number of tourist arrivals.

Meanwhile, Russian carriers Transaero and Aeroflot have both applied with Russian authorities to launch flights between Moscow and Manila. Prior to new air services agreement, a number of Russian and Philippine carriers had been operating charter flights between the two countries. Philippine Airlines operated non-stop flights between Vladivostok and Manila as well as Kalibo and Khabarovsk, while Russian carriers, S7 and Transaero, operated direct services from Khabarovsk to Cebu.

If the applications are approved, it is expected that flights would not begin until the winter at the earliest.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Air Asia Unveils Partnership with Henann Group of Resorts

AirAsia Philippines has unveiled its latest aircraft livery, featuring the logo of its newest partner, Henann Group of Resorts. The budget carrier that has been known as the world's best low-cost carrier for the past seven consecutive years has teamed up with this dynamic group of resort developers that operate world-class properties in Bohol, Palawan, and Boracay.
air asia henann resorts
Image Source: Air Asia Philippines
To commemorate the new partnership, an AirAsia Airbus A320 was painted in a vibrant blue that prominently displays the logo of Hennan Group on both sides to promote the luxury hotel resort chain and encourage travel in the Philippines. 

According to AirAsia Philippines CEO Joy Cañeba, the budget carrier is proud to partner with a company that shares the same corporate values as AirAsia. "We are thrilled and honored to carry a homegrown luxury resort brand that does not only proudly promote the Philippines, but also values a strong, innovative service culture, which are also the hallmarks of AirAsia's brand of service," said Cañeba. "This synergy aims to bring more tourists into the country and offer them to experience the Filipino brand of excellent service."

The new logo jet was unveiled just in time as Henann Group prepares to unveil its biggest hotel and resort property on Panglao Island in Bohol on August 22. "Our partnership with AirAsia, a globally recognized brand, is anchored on a shared commitment which is to deliver value and the best quality service," said Dr. Henry Chusuey, Chairman of Henann Group of Resorts. "We are excited to be involved in this collaborative project to create brand awareness on the ground and in the skies, to encourage and engage guests from the airline's massive network to come to the Philippines and enjoy the amazing beaches and our superb resort facilities." 

solaire air asia
Image Source: Manila Bulletin
This is not the first special livery to be flown by AirAsia Philippines. Last year, AirAsia unveiled two special liveries including one to commemorate a partnership with Solaire Resort and another for Philippine boxing superstar, Manny Pacquiao

manny pacquiao jet air asia
Copyright Photo: Ryu Guji / JetPhotos.net

Monday, August 17, 2015

David Foster: Air Asia's Latest Brand Ambassador, Supports Filipino Artists

Air Asia has revealed sixteen-time Grammy Award winner David Foster as its latest brand ambassador. Foster arrived in Manila on Sunday for a performance at Araneta Coliseum. The Canadian musician, composer, producer, and recording artist is known for the discovery and grooming of musical heavy weights including Celine Dion, Michael Buble, and Josh Groban.

david foster philippines
Image Source: David Foster / Instagram
According to AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Foster will serve as the global brand ambassador for AirAsia's Premium Flex product. The new product provides travellers with flexibility and enhanced value including 20 kilograms of complimentary checked luggage, an in-flight meal, two flight changes with seat selection, as well as priority baggage, check-in, and boarding. 

david foster manila
Image Source: AirAsia Philippines / Facebook
When asked why he chose Foster as his new brand ambassador, Fernandes simply replied, "Why not?" Fernandes added that he and Foster were old friends. "He's someone I've known for a long time during my music days," said Fernandes. "We've created many hits together over the years. David is a legend and I'm looking forward to creating many more hits through this collaboration, especially on our Premium offerings."

david foster philippines
Image Source: Air Asia Philippines / Facebook
During the announcement at the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Foster reportedly approached one of the AirAsia flight attendants and jokingly asked if she could fly with him to Manila. Coincidentally, the flight attendant happened to be a Filipina. After arriving in Manila on board his Air Asia flight, he proudly proclaimed,"The only way to travel in this part of the world. AirAsia hits all the right notes!!!"

david foster majestic hotel
Image Source: Air Asia Berhad / Twitter
AirAsia hopes that the partnership with David Foster will help to bolster the Premium Flex product and assist the carrier in evolving from just a low-cost carrier to a true value-based carrier offering best in class products, which will trigger the opening of new markets.

Foster joked that being the carrier's brand ambassador came with the privilege of flying anywhere with free extra luggage, wifi, and AirAsia's most beautiful flight attendants. AirAsia will leverage its partnership with Foster to attract customers that it previously thought it could not engage, especially in the corporate sector. "David has a good personality and high passion in everything he does," said Fernandes. "We hope to engage customers through music."

david foster kuala lumpur
Image Source: AirAsia Philippines / Twitter
Meanwhile, David is on the hunt for the next Asian singing sensation. Most recently, Foster uncovered Malaysian artist Yuna, while a few years back, he played an instrumental role in grooming Filipino artist, Charice. According to Foster, he came very close to finding the next superstar in Charice, but he's not prepared to give up on her yet.

"There's a lot of talent in Asia. If you just do the math, there's a billion and a half Asian people here, there's gonna be superstars here," said Foster. "We came very close with Charice from the Philippines. She has issues that she had to overcome and she's trying to get over those issues and when she does, we will hit with her again because I believe in her."

david foster air asia
Image Source: David Foster / Twitter
David produced Charice's first international album, which ranked Number 8 on the Billboard 200 when it made its debut in 2010. Charice has also made appearances on many of Foster's concert tours in Asia and the United States.

David and Charice are scheduled to reunite on August 19 for the David Foster and Friends concert at Araneta Coliseum that will also feature Jackie Evancho, Peter Cetera, Ruben Studdard, Boyz II Men, and Natalie Cole. Charice last performed with David in May during the finals for Asia's Got Talent.
 
Meanwhile, David expressed his appreciation for Filipino singer, Gerphil Flores, who he described as a flower that blossomed during the entire season of Asia's Got Talent. "She's an amazing young opera singer," said Foster, who hinted at the possibility of working with her. "I'm going to find an Asian superstar. That is on my bucket list."
 
david foster air asia
Image Source: David Foster / Twitter
AirAsia's Fernandes wants in on the action too. Fernandes, a former music executive, worked with David extensively before shifting into aviation in 2001. "That's my secret wish in tying up with David," said Fernandes. "Just listening to David, my mind's going overtime. We get involved in promoting and I think AirAsia can help local artists, like opera singer Gerphil Flores. We're going to get behind all Filipino artists around the world."

AirAsia was named the World's Best Low-Cost Airline for the seventh consecutive year at the 2015 SkyTrax World Airline Awards.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Air Asia X and Cebu Pacific Race to the US Mainland

Hawaii is about to become the battle ground for what may end up being a race to the west coast of the United States. Two of Asia's long-haul low-cost carriers, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia X, are preparing for what will become the region's first low-cost long-haul services from Asia to Hawaii. The flights to Hawaii will serve as a test of each carrier's respective low-cost model before reaching further to the US mainland.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, the trans-Pacific market is already one of the most competitive in the world. However, Asian low-cost carriers have a distinct advantage in having some of the lowest unit costs in the world. There are presently no long-haul low-cost carriers from the United States. However, that may change as foreign low-cost carriers from other parts of the world begin landing on US soil.

Honolulu is set to experience a massive drop in airfares as Cebu Pacific and AirAsia X enter the market. AirAsia X submitted an application to the United Stated Department of Transportation in April to operate four weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu via Osaka beginning in November 2015. 

Cebu Pacific secured certification in April of this year, but it is awaiting final approval from the US Transportation Security Administration, which needs to complete an assessment of Manila Airport's Terminal 3 before the Philippine budget carrier can serve the United States. In addition, Cebu Pacific will also need to secure the necessary slots at Honolulu International Airport. However, the carrier remains optimistic that it will be able to begin flights before the end of the year. 

AirAsia X intends to utilise fifth freedom rights between Japan and the United States. Given that Malaysia has a small portion of travellers bound for Hawaii, the majority of passengers on the AirAsia X flights will be sourced from Osaka, Japan.

The Osaka to Honolulu market is large and competitive with three other carriers competing on the route. Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Japan Airlines each offer one daily flight between the two cities. Delta Airlines is presently the market leader with a 39 percent share. 

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
AirAsia X is also banking on its soon to launch Japanese affiliate, AirAsia Japan, which is set to launch in late 2015. That would enable AirAsia X to offer one-stop connections to the Honolulu flights from a number of domestic cities throughout Japan. 

Cebu Pacific will have a distinct advantage over AirAsia X in that Hawaii to Southeast Asia is not a large sector with the exception of Hawaii to the Philippines. A large portion of overseas Filipinos reside in Hawaii. Filipinos are believed to be the second largest racial group in Hawaii with close to 175,000 Filipinos living in the US state. 

Cebu Pacific is hoping to stimulate the market with its low fares to not only draw more Filipinos to visit the mother country, but also to increase the frequency in which they visit. The Philippine budget carrier has less competition to face than AirAsia X, where Philippine Airlines is currently the only airline flying the Manila to Honolulu route. 

It remains unclear whether AirAsia X will attempt to compete against Cebu Pacific in the Hawaii-Philippines market. Although the route via Osaka would be rather circuitous for Filipino travellers, low-cost carrier operations often have the ability to stimulate unpredictable traffic when the right price is offered. 

AirAsia X currently competes against Cebu Pacific in the Philippines to Australia market, where Cebu Pacific offers non-stop service from Manila to Sydney, while AirAsia offers one-stop service via Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia Philippines does not presently fly to Japan. However, the carrier previously revealed intentions to serve the Japan-Philippines market in the future, making a one-stop service from Manila or Cebu to Honolulu possible via Osaka. 

AirAsia X will serve the route with a two-class 377-seat Airbus A330-300, while Cebu Pacific will operate a 436-seat mono-class A330-300. The Osaka to Honolulu flights are approximately seven hours long, compared to Manila to Honolulu, which is a more than ten hour flight in each direction.

Although Honolulu will be the first US destination for both carriers, which is a challenge in itself, the length of each respective flight is not unfamiliar to either budget airline. AirAsia X already operates s nine hour service from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah, while Cebu Pacific operates a 10 hour service between Manila and Kuwait. 

While realizing success in the Hawaii market would be no doubt an achievement for either carrier, the real prize lies on the US mainland. If Los Angeles was the next target city for either carrier, flights from Japan would range between 10 to 12 hours, while flights between Manila and Los Angeles would be 13 to 14 hours. But Cebu Pacific will need to acquire long-range aircraft before it can enter that market. Even with a low-cost model and low fuel prices, making these long-haul routes viable would be a challenge for even the strongest low-cost carrier. 

Using Hawaii as a testing ground provides both Cebu Pacific and Air Asia X with an opportunity to test the US market before making the longer leap and accepting the bigger risk that is the US mainland. 

Honolulu may be a challenge for AirAsia X, which must rely on the Japanese market, where its brand is less established compared to Southeast Asia. On the other hand, Cebu Pacific already enjoys a strong reputation within the Filipino community at home and overseas, which will give it an advantage heading into the new service. 

Although the outcome remains uncertain for either carrier, there is no doubt that the legacy carriers in Asia and the United States will be monitoring the results of the low-cost models closely as the threat of eroding their market share looms ahead, especially for Philippine flag carrier, Philippine Airlines. 

AirAsia and Cebu Pacific will not be the first long-haul low-cost carriers to serve the Honolulu market. Jetstar Airways already offers non-stop service to Honolulu from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. 

Canada's WestJet also operates non-stop service from a number of Canadian cities including Vancouver, Calgary, and Victoria. Allegiant Air is the only US low-cost carrier to have tested low-cost carrier service to Honolulu but has since scaled back operations significantly. Virgin America will be testing its own low-cost model when it launches flights from San Francisco in November.

References: CAPA

Air Asia Eyes International Expansion From Iloilo in 2016

Iloilo's Mayor Jed Mabilog has indicated that AirAsia Philippines is planning to launch direct flights from Iloilo to China by September 2016. The planned flights will carry passengers between Iloilo and Xiamen.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to Mabilog, 80 percent of Iloilo's Chinese-Filipino population come from Xiamen. "AirAsia's commitment is that starting next year by September 2016, they are going to launch the first Iloilo direct flights to Xiamen, China," said Mabilog.

However, Mabilog added that AirAsia is interested in building the airport's international presence further with the intention of opening direct flights from Iloilo to Seoul Incheon, South Korea by the last quarter of 2016.

Iloilo International Airport currently offers direct flights to two international destinations: Hong Kong and Singapore. Both flights are operated by Cebu Pacific. Cebu Pacific's flights to Hong Kong operate from Iloilo three times weekly, while the Singapore flights operate twice weekly.

Meanwhile, AirAsia is set to increase its flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur to accommodate the rising number of travellers. The budget carrier, which was recently named the World's Best Low-Cost Airline for the seventh consecutive year, will be adding a third daily flight between the Philippine and Malaysian capital beginning on July 12. It is believed that the third daily flight will be operated by AirAsia Malaysia.

Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO indicated earlier this year that AirAsia Philippines will pursue an initial public offering to raise funds to finance the carrier's expansion. "We can confirm today that AirAsia Indonesia and AirAsia Philippines will hold an Initial Public Offering subject to respective board approvals," said Fernandes. "Business in both Philippines and Indonesia is doing real well. Great support from both governments."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Air Asia Named World's Best Low Cost Airline For 7th Consecutive Year

AirAsia has been named the World's Best Low Cost Airline and Asia's Best Low Cost Airline for the seventh consecutive year at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards held at the Paris Air Show. The Malaysia based budget carrier has affiliates across Asia in Indonesia, Thailand, India, and the Philippines. 

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, although the past year was not without difficulty, he is honoured by the on-going support of the airline's staff and passengers. "We faced many challenges this year but I am proud to say that our staff banded together for our guests and we have emerged stronger than ever," said Fernandes. 

The AirAsia chief was on hand in Paris to accept the award on behalf of the entire company. "To be named the 'World's Best' for the seventh consecutive year is an incredible honour, and I dedicate it to the 17,000 AirAsia Allstars who are the force behind it all," said Fernandes. "We would also like to thank our guests and stakeholders for continuing to believe in us. We are committed to continue innovating on all fronts to provide our guests with not only the best value but also a superior travel experience and convenience using technology."

Image Source: AirAsia
The Skytrax World Airline Awards serve as the global benchmark of airline excellence and passenger satisfaction. It is one of the most prestigious awards in the airline industry, which are based on surveys submitted by nineteen million global air travellers from over 160 nationalities. Each survey covers 41 key performance indicators of an airline's products and services. 

Meanwhile, AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, was also recognized at the World Airline Awards for offering the World's Best Low Cost Airline Premium Cabin & Premium Seat. This is the third consecutive year that the long-haul budget carrier has earned the award. 

Image Source: AirAsia
The AirAsia X Premium Flatbed offers passengers universal power sockets, adjustable headrests, along with a number of other personal amenities. Passengers are also offered premium services including Priority Boarding and increased baggage allowance.

AirAsia X currently operates out of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. It remains uncertain if AirAsia X's budget long-haul service will be offered from the Philippines in the near future. AirAsia currently operates one of the youngest fleets in Asia. The budget carrier has 475 Airbus A320 aircraft on order with deliveries continuing until 2028.

Neither Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines received any acknowledgements at the World Airline Awards. Cebu Pacific did not even rank in the Top Ten of Best Low Cost Airlines in Asia, while Philippine Airlines did not rank in the Top Ten Best Airlines in Asia. Out of the Top 100 Best Airlines in the World, Philippine Airlines increased from its position of 93rd in 2014 to 87th in 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Air Asia Flight Review: Manila to Tacloban (Round-Trip)

Finally! I am going to Tacloban on an airline I have never flown with before---Air Asia and I am flying out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4 post-renovation for the first time. This should be interesting.

ninoy aquino airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 There wasn’t a lot of people at the entrance….

naia terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 …because everybody else was inside.

ninoy aquino airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The last time I was at NAIA 4 was more than five years ago and I remembered it to be dark and looking very much its age. I was therefore glad to see that the renovation wasn’t just hype. NAIA 4 looks very clean, spacious, and well-lit.

manila old domestic airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The check-in process was quick as I was already web checked-in and just had to check in my luggage at the baggage drop where I was the only one in queue.

ninoy aquino airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Hordes of people were inside the lounge that it probably took my friends and me half an hour to find available seats even after one flight had already boarded. It was almost like a game of musical chairs as to who could get to the seats fastest once they were vacated.

manila terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Boarding commenced on time.

air asia philippines a320
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
air asia zest cabin crew
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I usually book myself a front seat but this time, I let Air Asia pick out my seat and they assigned me one at the back. It was the first time I had boarded a plane from the back and saw that there was also a very friendly and happy crew checking our boarding passes as well.

air asia philippines cabin
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
air asia philippines cabin
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
air asia meals
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As much as I can help it, I never order on-board meals because my taste buds go through agony with airline meals so I always eat before the flight or bring my own food. In this case, my friend prepared a grilled chicken sandwich for us. But looking at the menu, I think I wouldn’t have minded ordering the chicken rice or the nasi lemak---if they arrived as filling and delicious as they looked in the pictures.

air asia philippines safety demo
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I think this is the very first time I’ve seen safety instructions in Filipino.

Taxiing was kind of wobbly like the wheels were trying to find their stability but the rest of the flight was comfortable except for brief and mild turbulence upon reaching our destination.

air asia flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As soon as we landed and the seat belt sign was turned off, we all stood up facing the front until we heard the door open from the back giving us, the rear passengers, another exit option. We made an almost synchronized about-face.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As much as all the passengers were in a hurry to leave the plane, most were milling around it for a selfie after getting off.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I guess that’s time better spent than waiting for your luggage to come out.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Mine took 10 minutes to come out.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As soon as we stepped out of the airport, men with umbrellas were competing for our attention, screaming “Taxi! Taxi!” like paparazzi. I yelled that I wanted a tricycle thinking it would be cheaper but my group of three was being charged P150 for a fifteen-minute drive to our hotel. The taxi was just fifty pesos more so we opted for it instead. It was amusing how friendly these men were even if we didn’t hire them. As we waited for our driver to get his taxi, the men were pointing us to a cooler place to wait. One even shared his umbrella with me saying, “Ang init! Ang init!” (It’s hot! It’s hot!) I laughed while thanking him but I had to decline the Imelda Marcos treatment. Incidentally, Imelda Marcos hails from Tacloban.

BYE, TACLOBAN!

Eventually, it was time to leave Tacloban. Our taxi driver whom we hired when we arrived in Tacloban later became our tour guide and personal comedian. We were thinking of going to the airport early but he shouted, “Masisira beauty ninyo!” (Literally: “your beauty would be ruined” but it’s more of a vernacular and funny way of saying that it’s not a good idea.) He said we wouldn’t be able to do anything before the counters open and it would just be a waste of our time. We didn’t get what he was trying to say. My friends and I were willing to wait anyway but he insisted on taking us to Robinson’s Mall instead and he picked us up when the counters opened. We relented and had our lunch there. (I highly recommend Jo’s Chicken Inasal at the food court for being so generous with their servings. Each meal comes with two huge cups of rice!)

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 When we arrived at the airport, it wasn’t surprising to see a long line at the entrance.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 I thought the people there were just waiting to be let in.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Turns out that the entrance was the “lobby” of sorts. No one, and absolutely no one, was allowed entry before the counters were ready to check in passengers. That was what our tour guide was warning us about earlier. Our flight was scheduled to fly at 1:20pm and we were telling him that it was okay for us to be at the airport as early as 10:00am but the airport authorities were strict about letting people in before the check-in time. Good thing we took his advice and spent our waiting time at an air-conditioned mall.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I eventually went up to the front of the line to ask if we could already be allowed inside because we were web checked-in. Negative.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As soon as I entered inside, I understood the rationale behind the policy. The check-in area was small, crowded, cramped and very hot. I inquired about a bag drop counter and was told that I had to line up at the one regular line as there was no web check-in counter. The wait wasn’t that long actually. It was just the high temperature that made it seem longer. My face was probably all shiny with perspiration. My face towel was almost drenched by the time it was my turn.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This fan at the Air Asia counter did little to ease the discomfort as you had to stand in front of it to experience relief.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 I hope the increased terminal fees collected will help improve the facility.

air asia tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
While waiting for my turn, the man in front of me kept going back and forth from his spot to the self-service machine which had a “closed” sign above it but someone was still using it.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 Beside the check-in counter was a makeshift office.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The air-conditioned, spacious and well-lit departure gate lounge was a stark contrast to the crowded, hot and poorly-lit check-in area like it was almost an oasis.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The second I stepped inside it, I heaved a huge sigh of relief especially after feeling the breeze of air-conditioning touching my face. I guess my reaction was much bigger than I intended, which caused some people to turn their heads and look at me. “Move along, people….nothing to see here…”

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The perimeters of the lounge were occupied by the usual food and souvenir stalls.

tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
tacloban airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 Soon enough, it was time to board the plane.

air asia tacloban
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Although boarding was on time, our actual departure was twenty minutes late due to the “sequencing of our time of arrival.”

air asia philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We boarded almost as soon as the incoming Manila passengers were done exiting which probably explains the litter.

air asia cabin
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
air asia a320 philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Earlier, I mentioned it was my first time to fly Air Asia but it wasn’t my first time to ride the Airbus 320. But somehow this one felt more cramped and the seats were too straight and stiff for me.

The flight was uneventful although a bit funny. Before we took off, a woman stood in the middle of the plane calling out for her husband who was assigned a seat several rows down. For all to hear, she was telling him that he could sit next to her as she was alone in her entire row. She kept repeating herself but the husband remained unidentifiable. He neither stood up nor answered---at all.

air asia zest
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Upon landing, we all stood up with some of us facing the back door expecting it to open but this time, we could only exit through the front door.

manila airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 There was a short five-minute walk from the plane to the baggage claim area.

ninoy aquino airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
naia terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
ninoy aquino airport terminal 4
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
My luggage came out last of the batch with an approximately twenty-minute waiting time.

So, will I fly Air Asia again? It may not be my first priority but it’s now entered my list of options for price comparison.

---THE PARANOID TRAVELER----

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