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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Air Asia Unveils Solaire Branded Aircraft

AirAsia Philippines in partnership with Solaire Resort and Casino have unveiled the first consumer branded aircraft in the Philippines. An AirAsia Airbus A320 has been wrapped in a brightly coloured livery that proudly displays the Solaire logo in an effort to promote the company and tourism in the Philippines.

Image Source: Manila Bulletin
The Airbus A320 will be embarking on its maiden flights this July to AirAsia destinations throughout the Philippines and Asia. Solaire Resort and Casino now becomes the first consumer brand in the Philippines to fully wrap and brand a commercial aircraft.

According to officials at Solaire Resort, the dynamic collaboration between these two vibrant brands represents a step forward in an on-going effort to create modern leisure and travel experiences for clients.

"This milestone is a key undertaking between two passionate brands with entrepreneurial and dynamic mindsets," said Solaire Resort and Casino Board Director Donato Almeda. "This unprecedented branding project in the Philippines may be taken as a 'leadership statement' which attests to Solaire's strong growth momentum in the industry." He added that the company is raising the bar and this time, they are taking it to the skies.

Solaire's branding is currently visible on one aircraft. However, the company has not ruled out branding additional aircraft in the future. For now, the campaign is scheduled to continue until 2016 with the goal that this high impact advertisement in the sky will generate plenty of hype and publicity as the partnership progresses.

"This aircraft branding campaign is a strategic branding initiative which would allow us to literally take our brand to greater heights," said Solaire Vice President of Brand & Marketing Jasper Evangelista. "We have created amazing moments for our customers since Solaire launched last year, and now we're aiming to further connect with our local and foreign guests and travellers by reinforcing our brand presence in the country's airports."

Image Source: Solaire Resort & Casino
Officials from both companies hope that the two young dynamic brands will be able to generate further synergies as this marketing initiative sets the stage to opening new revenue streams for both companies. "AirAsia Philippines is a sociable and innovative brand," said Maan Hontiveros, CEO of AirAsia Philippines. "We also take pride in our collaborative nature. This new livery demonstrates our creative approach to partnerships and marketing opportunities especially with companies that support our vision to grow tourism."

Solaire Resort and Casino has earned a strong reputation in Manila and across the Philippines for its top class luxurious accommodations, world-renowned Philippine hospitality, and unparalleled brand of service. "We are thrilled to carry Solaire's brand in the sky and on the ground at the airports here and abroad, extending to as far as our destinations in Malaysia, China, and Korea," added Hontiveros.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

AirAsia Philippines Eyes Flights to Myanmar

AirAsia Philippines, along with sister carrier, AirAsia Zest, are seeking to launch flights to Myanmar as part of their on-going international route expansion.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
In an application filed with the Civil Aeronautics Board, AirAsia Philippines is requesting 1,260 seat entitlements between Manila and Yangon after the Philippines and Myanmar recently concluded a successful round of air negotiations. Meanwhile, AirAsia Zest is seeking an allocation that would permit up to seven weekly flights between Manila and Yangon.

AirAsia Group is competing directly with Cebu Pacific for entitlements. Last month, both Cebu Pacific and partner carrier, Tigerair Philippines each submitted an application to the Civil Aeronautics Board seeking 1,260 weekly seats between Manila and Yangon.

According to Carmelo Arcilla, Executive Director of the Civil Aeronautics Board, Myanmar offers much potential for Philippine carriers. "Myanmar is a rapidly growing economy of about 60 million people, with a potential for the development of direct connectivity with the Philippines," said Arcilla. Last year, it was revealed that the Philippines and Myanmar were seeking an agreement to enable visa-free access between both countries for a set period of time.

Under the new air agreement, designated carriers from each country are permitted to fly up to 3,780 seats per week, representing approximately 3 flights daily. However, the agreement permits unlimited traffic rights between all points in Myanmar and all points in the Philippines outside of Manila.

Friday, July 11, 2014

AirAsia Zest Launches Fly-Thru Service to Australia

In likely what is a competitive response to Cebu Pacific's upcoming launch of long haul low-cost flights to Australia, AirAsia Zest has announced that it will be offering a "Fly-Thru" service from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide in Australia.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Although Cebu Pacific will be operating direct flights from Manila to Sydney, AirAsia's service offers a convenient one stop connecting service to three major Australian gateways through Kuala Lumpur International Airport's brand new Terminal 2.

According to officials from AirAsia Zest, introductory promotional fares to Australia from the Philippines will start as low as P5,609 one-way including all taxes and surcharges. Passengers will enjoy seamless transit, hassle free luggage check-in and convenient connections from the Philippines to Australia.

"Fly-Thru allows AirAsia Zest guests to seamlessly connect on multiple flight legs on certain flights without needing to pass through immigration, collect bags, check-in between flights or have a transit visa," AirAsia said in a statement. "Bags will be automatically checked through to the final destination."

AirAsia Zest CEO Joy Caneba highlighted that the new service will not only offer a pleasant and convenient travel experience for passengers but would also help to boost tourism and encourage overseas workers to come home more often with the affordable fares.

"We offer guests the convenience of connecting seamlessly at low fares and at the same time ensuring that our guests enjoy only the best quality service from us," said Caneba. "The seamless connectivity and convenience of travelling between the Philippines and Australia via our Fly Thru service will further boost tourism and encourage our Filipino overseas workers to come home as often as possible."

Image Source: Wikimedia
Passengers will enjoy the convenience of departing from the smaller Terminal 4 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport where they will board an AirAsia Zest A320 flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. Upon arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2, passengers carrying the onward boarding pass to Australia will be asked to proceed to International Transfer and go through a security check prior to boarding the flight to Australia operated by a 377-seat Airbus A330-300 of AirAsia X, the long haul division of AirAsia.

Unlike budget carrier flights operated by Cebu Pacific, passengers travelling with AirAsia have the opportunity to choose between either Economy Class or Business Class. AirAsia X aircraft also feature a "Quiet Zone" where guests aged 12 and under are not permitted to sit. AirAsia X aircraft are equipped with 365 seats in Economy with a nine-abreast configuration, while 12 seats are offered in Business Class.

air asia premium class
Image Source: AirAsia
AirAsia X's Business Class offers a real business class seat that features the ability to recline into a Premium FlatBed. Seats are also equipped with personalised reading lights, foldaway tables, adjustable foot rests and head rests, as well as a universal power socket.


For in-flight entertainment, guests have the option of reserving a Samsung Galaxy Tablet featuring the latest box office movies, television shows, hours of video games, and music. Each tablet boasts a 10.1" HD quality widescreen display and up to 10 hours of battery life. Complimentary headsets are provided with each reservation. All guests may also earn points from AirAsia's BIG Loyalty program

air asia samsung galaxy tab
Image Source: AirAsia
Officials from AirAsia Philippines have previously expressed interest in launching their own long haul division under the AirAsia X brand from Clark International Airport. However, officials from AirAsia X dismissed the idea suggesting that it was premature given the need to first establish the AirAsia brand profitably in the Philippines. 

Air Asia Zest Planning Flights to Indonesia

AirAsia Zest, the Philippine affiliate of Malaysia based AirAsia Group, is planning to pursue launching flights between Manila and Indonesia pending a successful round of air talks between the two countries.

air asia zest indonesia
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to Marianne Hontiveros, Chair of AirAsia Zest, the carrier sees opportunities between both countries for the development of trade and business related travel. She added that presently there are few flights between the two neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

Indonesia and the Philippines have yet to identify a definitive date for the pending air talks. However, management at AirAsia Zest are already exploring the opportunities. "There are few direct flights to Indonesia from here," said Hontiveros. "We also have an affiliate there, AirAsia Indonesia. So we can feed each other."

Hontiveros noted that Jakarta could become a potential business destination with the extensive number of Filipino professionals residing there. "There are a lot of Filipino professionals there from mid-to-top level management," said Hontiveros. She added that in terms of tourism, Bandung, Bali, and West Java are all attractive destinations.

AirAsia Zest currently operates from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 and is majority owned by Filipino businessman Alfredo Yao. AirAsia recently entered into a partnership with Solaire Resort and Casino to completely brand one of AirAsia's Airbus A320 aircraft in a special corporate livery making Solaire the first ever consumer brand in the Philippines to completely brand an entire aircraft.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Extortion of Tourists Continues at Ninoy Aquino International Airport

The following letter was originally published on Rappler. It is written by Alain Pascua, the co-founder and vice president of the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines and vice president of Philippine Bird Photography Workshops and Tours. Philippine Flight Network has obtained permission from the author to share the letter for the benefit of our audience and other travellers.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
Is it More Fun in the Philippines?

Last night, May 30, 2014, Rey Sta Ana and I sent off five foreign bird photographer tourist guests to NAIA Terminal 4 for their 8:15pm Air Asia flight to Shanghai. We have just finished guiding them in their 12-day Philippine Bird Photography Tour in Coron and Puerto Princesa in Palawan (with Atty. Carlo Benitez Gomez, Chin Fernandez and Alex Ting) , in Mt. Makiling in Laguna, in Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Quezon, in Mt. Palay-Palay in Cavite and in the University of the Philippines in Quezon City (with Prof. Bert Madrigal). 

Image Source: Alain Pascua
Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
We thought that the only complain we have in Terminal 4 is the security guard detailed at the international departure door/gate. Mr. Mario Santos of Lanting Security is so strict, a trait that we often appreciate, but is not people-friendly, and not good as a last impression for foreign tourists leaving the country after their tour. He was strict in enforcing the no-ticket no-entry policy given to him (a real cadre of the no-ID no-entry code), and turns away everybody without it. His stance and feature is like that of battle-hardened soldier who never smile and more similarly like a goons who exudes arrogance a mile away. He is best fitted as a perimeter guard, but not a tourist reception officer. Anyway, we sent off our guest and just viewed their checking-in via the windows outside.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
After sending them off and on our way back to Manila, we received a call from one of them informing us that the airport authorities were not allowing him to board the plane because of excess baggage. He was willing to pay the extra baggage, but the airport personnel insisted that he check-in his entire hand carry bag because it exceeds the 7-kilogram limit. Indeed his hand carry bag exceeds the limit because it contains three lenses - Canon EF 500mm f/4, 100-400mm zoom, and 20-700mm and two bodies - Canon EOS 1D Mark 4 and 5D Mark 3. These are his gears for wild bird photography that must be hand-carried and not checked-in, despite exceeding the limit, because these are breakable and sophisticated precision equipment. As long as the bag conforms with the size specifications, it must be allowed for checked-in. But since our guest Mr. SHI XIAO JUN can not speak English, but only Mandarin, and could not explain these matters clearly and thoroughly to the authorities, he was forced to hand-over his camera bag for check-in. Being held in abeyance and not allowed to proceed to return flight is one big pressure for one in a foreign country. 

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
But the airport authorities would not just accept his camera bag without payment, so he gave US$100. They said it was not enough. And then he gave US$200, which they got with his camera bag. No receipts given. Just like that, plain and simple extortion! That was about 7:00 to 7:30pm of May 30, 2014.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
There are four possible stages where this extortion could have happened: 1) at the check-in counter with attending Air Asia personnel, 2) at the cashier for excess baggage payment, 3) at the second security check-in of Immigration personnel, and 4) at the tube before entering into the plane where personnel usually eye for big bags. With all the details provided herein with regards the date, time, etc. the appropriate government authorities can easily narrow down the personnel involved in this extortion scheme.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
As of this time, 10:30am of May 31, 2014, Mr. Huqiusheng has not yet informed us if his camera bag has been retrieved by him as checked-in baggage. This is the greater worry, horror rather - not to retrieve the forcibly checked-in camera bag as the airport personnel already saw the contents which would amount to more than one million pesos and may be tempted to keep, or to find the contents broken. Either way, the airline usually could not guarantee its handling safety so it usually allows the passenger to hand carry it as long as the size conforms to standard specifications.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
As this was happening, we were informed by the group's foreign tour leader that an incident happened on their way to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan last May 22, 2014. At the last security check-in counter in NAIA Terminal 3, the airport personnel ask Mr. ZHAN LIN WANG to show the contents of his belt bag which he did. And when the airport personnel saw his small pack of medicines, he was asked to show the prescriptions. The tour leader who was with them explained that the medicines are his daily maintenance meds as he is already 80 years old (Yes, he's 80 years old and is doing wild bird photography with Nikon D4 and 800mm lens!), and that he has no prescriptions for those meds. The airport personnel insisted that he show the same. So when their foreign tour leader asked what they should do, the airport personnel gestured with his thumbs and fingers that could only mean "money." Stunned by such blatant insinuation, Mr. Wang suddenly swallowed his meds and together with the tour leader immediately left the place.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
That happened between 3:00-4:00 pm of May 22, 2014. Their flight to Puerto Princesa City was Cebu Pacific 5J638. Again, the government authorities can easily narrow the personnel involved with all the details provided herein.

Image Source: Alain Pascua
Are these the ways we treat foreign guests to our country? While the Department of Tourism and other travel and tour-related offices, companies, and individuals try so hard luring tourists to visit our country and providing the best services they can offer while they are here, our airport personnel will just blow these things away instantly because of their extortionist doings at the very gates of the country.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
We may take our shortcomings and failure to show all or most of our avian treasures to our foreign guests with deep regret, but these extortionist attitudes of our countrymen manning the country's gates deserve not just public condemnations at the strongest sense but outright investigation and penalty. 

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
Let us clean up this mess, Mr. President! Let heads roll!

Alain Pascua
Co-Founder and Vice President
Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, Inc. (WBPP)

Friday, June 20, 2014

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.

airasia zest
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. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Passenger Files Lawsuit Against Zest Air and Manila International Airport Authority

Lawyer and former senatorial candidate, Samson Alcantara, 79,  has filed a P1.5 million damage suit against AirAsia Zest and the Manila International Airport Authority after he fainted at NAIA Terminal 4 due to heat exhaustion that ended up injuring his elbow on the morning of May 23. 

Image Source: Boy Wander
Alcantara filed a civil case at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court last week accusing AirAsia Zest and the Manila International Airport Authority of wilful breach of contractual and statutory obligations, to provide for the protection, safety, and convenience of the plaintiff, an airline passenger and senior citizen.

According to Alcantara, the check-in area at NAIA Terminal 4 was hot, congested, and no seats were provided. In addition, there were no dedicated senior citizen lanes. His five-page complaint suggested that the check-in at the terminal posed a serious danger to the safety and health of passengers but terminal users are left with no choice if they want to reach their destination.

Alcantara fainted at the airport on May 23 after he was forced to line up for two hours at the check-in counter. "The check-in area was hot, congested, and was not provided with seats," said Alcantara. "It did not have any senior citizens' express or priority lanes." He added that the incident that happened to him was not the first one. Last month, a passenger identified as Angelita Baroso bound for London fainted at NAIA Terminal 1 due to the unbearable heat resulting from the terminal's on-going rehabilitation. Alcantara filed the suit to "encourage other air travelers who suffered" in the same manner that he did to file similar cases that could set a precedent for the enforcement of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

In a text message sent to Rappler, Alcantara said that he wants "to make those airline authorities more responsible in the performance of their duties." He noted that should the relief that he is seeking be granted, it will serve as a lesson in prioritizing the welfare of passengers including the elderly.

In the lawsuit, Alcantara cited the Air Passenger Bill of Rights Section 9.2, Chaper III, which states that there must be at least one check-in counter per airline that prioritizes persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and persons requiring special assistance. If impractical, the air carriers must provide priority handling and processing for these types of passengers. The Air Passenger Bill of Rights came into effect in December 2012. Alcantara suggested that AirAsia Zest and the Manila International Airport Authority demonstrated "malevolence and callousness" in their use of the terminal's check-in area despite insufficient facilities and "widespread public outrage."

The lawsuit covers P1.1 million in civil damages and P200,000 in attorney's fees. Alcantara was on his way to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for a weekend trip with accompanying colleagues from the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law. While in line waiting to check-in, Alacantara "lost consciousness, fell on the floor, and sustained injuries in the head and left elbow." After being examined at the NAIA Clinic, he was brought to San Juan De Dios Hospital, where he remained until he was discharged three days later.

The Manila International Airport Authority issued a press statement claiming that Alcantara's fall was due to hunger. But Alcantara says that he "was not hungry on that occasion" and "has more than enough income to avoid hunger." Alcantara is a lecturer, practising lawyer, and bar reviewer. He leads the political party, the Social Justice Society, that first petitioned the High Court to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund unconstitutional.

The heat being endured by both staff and passengers at Ninoy Aquino International Airport has even prompted President Aquino himself to issue a public apology. Additional air conditioning units are expected to be installed at the airport in August but the Manila International Airport Authority says that passengers and staff will need to endure the conditions until the new units arrive. The government cited procurement policies as the cause of the lengthy delays to acquire new air conditioning units.

AirAsia Zest Flight Review: Manila to Puerto Princesa

As one of the main carriers in the Philippines, AirAsia Zest is starting to get a fair share of the market in Philippine aviation. It was my first time flying with this airline and I am excited to share my flight experience from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

"AirAsia Zest: Now Everyone Can Fly!"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN

PRE-DEPARTURE

The Manila hub of AirAsia Zest is currently based at the  Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal, also known as Terminal 4. Once you get inside the airport, the mandatory security check is performed and the check-in counters can easily be found. The check-in counters are not equipped with any television panels but rather a small piece of bond paper showing the flight details.

"AirAsia Zest Check-in Counters at NAIA Terminal 4"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
"NAIA Terminal 4 Check-in Counters"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The ground crew greeted me, asked for my identification card (ID), and my ticket. But instead of a ticket, I gave him my boarding pass together with my ID since I used their web check-in service that can be found on their website. It was less than 10 minutes before I found myself inside the boarding area where you can find shops and small food stalls to beat any lingering hunger.

"Blue Seats in the Pre-Departure Area at NAIA Terminal 4"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
"Green Chairs in Pre-Departure Area. Food Stalls are also Available"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Ten minutes before the actual boarding time, I heard my name being called at the passenger service area. The ground crew explained that we would be using an Airbus A319-200 (RP-C8990) and the seat assigned to me was not available on that plane. I was given a receipt type of boarding pass with my new seat assignment and then heard the instructions for boarding.

"Flight Z2 428 now ready for boarding at Gate 2"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
It was about 5 minutes after the boarding instructions that we were asked to board the plane 10 minutes before the scheduled time. The flow of people was organized from the boarding gate up until we reached the plane, assisted by AirAsia Zest ground crew.

"Passengers Lining Up at Boarding Gate 2"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The front and back door of the plane were used for embarkation, which improved the speed and flow of passengers boarding the aircraft.

"Airbus A319-200 (RP-C8990) still has the old Zest Air livery"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
"Passengers lining to board at the front door of the aircraft"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
PRE-FLIGHT

There were 4 cabin crew that greeted us at the aircraft doors, consistently checking the boarding passes of passengers to make sure they were on the correct flight. The flight was under the command of Captain Javellana and First Officer Peralta together with lead cabin crew Avilard and 3 other crew members, Princess, Honey and Frances.

"The Front Seats of the Aircraft where the Red Seats are Missing"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Upon entering the aircraft, I was expecting to see the red seats at the front, which are typical of AirAsia's cabin configuration but I was not able to find them. But what I noticed was that people could pass through to a window seat even though someone was sitting in the aisle. I felt that the space aboard the aircraft was better compared to other low-cost carriers.

"The aisle of the aircraft as the cabin crew checks that passengers are seated"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Once I settled down in my seat, I grabbed the safety instructions and read how to open the exit door during an emergency situation.

"The seat backs contain the in-flight magazine, safety instructions, and menu"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
15 minutes after boarding time, the lead cabin crew announced the closing of the door and getting ready for departure. The mandatory checks and counts of passengers were conducted along with the in-flight safety demonstration. The cabin crew assigned to our row provided additional instructions in the event of an emergency landing and what we should do should our assistance be required. Infant life jackets were also given to passengers during the final check before departure.

"Lead Cabin Crew, Avilard, reminding passengers to stow luggage"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN

IN-FLIGHT

"An AirAsia Philippines flight departs from Ninoy Aquino International Airport"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The flight departed out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time. It was a smooth take-off by the captain and the weather was good. However, 15 minutes after departing, the captain announced to keep the seatbelts on as we were about to experience turbulence. About ten minutes later, the seatbelts sign was switched off and the cabin crew announced further information about the flight.


"Snack trays served by cabin crew"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Snacks were offered to passengers and as expected, the cost was higher compared to buying on the ground. Their in-flight menu featured hot meals including Maan’s Pasta Arrabiata, Junior Cho’s Korean Beef Stew, and Chicken Adobo ala Mariles which were sold at Php 200 (less than USD 4) and all were Halal certified. Though I did not try any of the offerings, I feel that it could satisfy one's hunger on a quick flight.

"AirAsia pencils sold for just Php 140 - less than USD 3"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
On board memorabilia was also sold to passengers for a minimal amount. I am not sure if all of them were available but I was able to buy the AirAsia Zest pencils. One thing I noticed is that their in-flight menu was cut into two. I mentioned to the cabin crew that they need to replace it since it should be presentable to passengers. She politely explained that there are other staff responsible for changing them every night but that she would ensure it was replaced with a more presentable one.

"Table trays are stowed in the seats at exit rows"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Tray tables in the exit rows were not in front of the seat but rather kept in the arm of the chair, which needs to be taken out. Together with the in-flight instructions and menu, I found time to read their in-flight magazine, Travel3Sixty, which featured Taylor Swift on the cover. The in-flight magazine is interesting because it covers a lot of stories not just about travelling but also some interesting topics about the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

"In-Flight Safety Card, Menu, and Magazine: Travel3Sixty"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
After 45 minutes in flight, the captain announced his gratitude for flying AirAsia Zest and less than 10 minutes after, we began to descend. The flight landed at Puerto Princesa International Airport, 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time of arrival.

CONCLUSION

AirAsia Zest may have the smallest market share in the Philippines but I am definitely hoping that they will strive against the competition. Personally, one of the things that I found that separates them from the other low cost carriers is how they provide service to their customers. Starting from the ground crew up to the cabin crew, they have this level of professionalism that truly shows off their confidence wearing the AirAsia Zest uniforms. I would definitely recommend to my friends and family to choose AirAsia Zest and AirAsia Philippines for destination currently served by the airline. I hope they will continue expanding their network and painting the skies red so that “Now Everyone Can Fly.” Kudos, AirAsia Zest for a job well done!

"Enjoying the view on approach to Puerto Princesa International Airport"
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Traveller's Notes:
  • AirAsia Zest flies to Puerto Princesa 4 times daily. Check their website at for flight details and further information.
  • The web check-in service is available to all of their flights 14 days up to 1 hour before departure for AirAsia (AK, QZ, FD, PQ, Z2, I5) flights and up to 4 hours for AirAsia (D7, XJ) flights. 
-travelling_bk

Thursday, June 5, 2014

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. 

air asia philippines
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.

Air Asia Zest Plans Service to Japan in October

Budget carrier AirAsia Zest has revealed that it plans to double the number of passengers it carried last year by implementing a route expansion that will take the carrier as far as Japan in October of this year.

air asia japan
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to new AirAsia Zest CEO Joy Caneba, the carrier hopes to see annual passenger traffic reach 5.5 million for 2014 versus 2.6 million the previous year. Caneba is banking on international route growth to achieve the goals. 

"My strategy is to bring in more inbound traffic so the growth will come more from international operations," said Caneba. "My plan for AirAsia Zest is to be one of the major players in the Philippines aviation industry, and to do that, we need the company to drive into the North Asian markets." She added that the carrier will be targeting the South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese markets, while also providing more travel opportunities for Filipinos.

AirAsia Zest has applied to the Civil Aeronautics Board for permission to serve Tokyo Haneda airport in Japan. All fourteen weekly flight allocations are presently held by Philippine Airlines but the carrier is only using half. "We are asking for at least a quarter of the allocations," said Caneba. In addition to Haneda, the carrier has also filed applications for Tokyo Narita and Nagoya. The airline is planning to launch its first flights to Japan beginning in October of this year. 

But AirAsia Zest is not focused solely on the international market. It also wants to re-establish its domestic network and expand routes in the Philippines. "We want to re-establish our bases in Manila, Cebu, and Kalibo, so we are partnering with the local governments of Kalibo and Cebu for the promotion of these destinations," said Caneba. 

Meanwhile, AirAsia Zest is also considering going public once it has managed to record consecutive years of profitability. According to Caneba, any funds raised would be used for route and fleet expansion. The carrier is hoping that it will achieve profitability starting this year. "We're required to have three years of profitability," said Caneba. "The earliest we can go public is three years from now."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Philippine Airlines Trails Cebu Pacific in First Quarter Domestic Results

Cebu Pacific maintained its lead in the domestic market as Philippine carriers reported their first quarter results. According to data from the Civil Aeronautics Boards, domestic passenger traffic rose by 1.58 percent in the first quarter to 5.14 million versus the same period last year.

philippine airlines first quarter results
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Eight carriers in the Philippines reported their first quarter results to the Civil Aeronautics Board. Across all carriers, the average load factor was 75 percent. Load factor refers to the number of seats occupied per flight. With a load factor of 78 percent, Cebu Pacific maintained its position as the country's leading domestic carrier.

In the first quarter of 2014, Cebu Pacific carried 2.65 million passengers, representing a 5 percent increase over the 2.52 million carried in the first quarter of 2013. However, the 78 percent load factor was 1 percent lower than the previous year's load factor of 79 percent. 

Philippine Airlines domestic traffic fell by 50.4 percent  as the carrier shifted a number of its domestic routes over to PAL Express. Philippine Airlines maintained its 71 percent load factor achieved in 2013. The carrier's domestic affiliate, PAL Express, recorded a load factor of 77 percent, an increase of 3 percent over the same period last year. PAL Express flew 1.29 million passengers compared to the 1.05 million carried in 2013. 

Meanwhile, AirAsia Group recorded increases at both of its Philippine affiliates. AirAsia Zest carried 514,761 passengers in 2014, representing an increase over the 497,993 carried in 2013. AirAsia Philippines carried 74,739 passengers.

Tigerair Philippines, which is now owned by Cebu Pacific, recorded a modest increase carrying 216,169 passengers in 2014 compared to 209,979 in 2013. SkyJet Airlines carried 3,768 passengers with its single Bae-146 regional jet. 

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific led the way in the domestic cargo market, carrying nearly half of the industry total at 25.89 million kilograms. The 2014 figures represent an increase for Cebu Pacific over the 23 million kilograms carried in 2013. Philippine Airlines came in second place carrying 20.97 million kilograms, up from 17.48 million kilograms achieved the year before.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Air Asia Eyes Growth in the Philippines

AirAsia is planning an aggressive expansion in the Philippine market that will see the budget carrier take on the major players of the industry: Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. According to AirAsia officials, the carrier would like to increase passenger volume in the Philippines by 50 percent this year. 

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
"I just turned 50 and I still have the energy to live in the next 50 years," said Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO. "Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines should watch out for that growth." AirAsia is currently preparing to make Kalibo International Airport its secondary hub in the country after Ninoy Aquino International Airport. "We have a very exciting plan outside of Manila where we can open up new markets through tourism growth," Fernandes added.

AirAsia is planning to nearly double the current number of flights it offers from Manila to Kalibo from seven to thirteen daily. The carrier also has an aggressive international expansion plan ready for China that would see the airline launch new flights from Kalibo to Guangzhou, Chengdu, Ningbo, Changsha, Xiamen, Hangzhou, and Wenzhou.

According to Marianne Hontiveros, President & CEO of AirAsia Philippines, once the final consolidation with AirAsia Zest has been completed, the airline will be able to drive major growth in the country. "We are in the final stages of consolidation with AirAsia Zest," said Hontiveros. "We are just waiting for the approval of the Senate before moving to final acquisition." 

Once AirAsia Philippines receives controlling interest of AirAsia Zest, the AirAsia Group plans to increase its initial $100 million investment in the Philippine affiliates to enable them to drive growth by adding more aircraft and new routes. Last year, AirAsia Philippines purchased a 49 percent stake in Zest Air that was later rebranded to AirAsia Zest. The two carriers recently completed consolidation and rationalization of domestic routes. 

With consolidation and rationalization now complete, the combined partnership of AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia Zest now operates an extensive route network comprised of 20 international flights and 50 domestic flights. Hontiveros added that the carrier is just awaiting approval from the Civil Aeronautics Board to begin flying to Singapore, Japan, and Bangkok from Manila or Kalibo. 

AirAsia is also seeking additional slots at Ninoy Aquino International Airport with a view to expand its operations from Terminal 4, while adding additional slots from Terminal 3. The carrier has expressed interest in the past in constructing a low-cost carrier terminal at the country's primary international gateway. "The restoration of Category 1 by the United States Federal Aviation Administration and the lifting of the European Union ban will open many opportunities for AirAsia and the Philippines," said Hontiveros. 

Although the AirAsia Group continues to be bullish on the prospects of the Philippine market, it stressed that it will never be able to reach its full potential unless the nation begins to accelerate investments in infrastructure. Tony Fernandes said that he believes in the tourism potential of the country and is encouraged by a "great government that wants to talk and listen."

"AirAsia's first year in the Philippines has been a 'tough' ride, but the company is focused on its game plan of 'making money, growing, entering new areas and creating new markets,'" said Fernandes. "We have a baptism of fire with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines grounding us last year. We got two strong competitors in PAL and Cebu Pacific, but we've ridden the storm and things are looking good for the future."

Fernandes said that future Asean integration will benefit the country and the region but more work needs to be done. "We believe in this market. I love this place. Tourism here is exploding," said Fernandes. "You have 80-100 million people here, but we can't maximize that until you build some airports here, roads, and infrastructure."

Fernandes added that the region is moving in the right direction by liberalizing the aviation sector. "From where Europe is to us, we may be 50 percent behind, but we've gone a long way from where we were," said Fernandes. "There are many ways of blocking areas like slots and air traffic. If you want to be open, you have to be open."

Fernandes also noted that there are a number of "invisible areas" that impede growth. "It's not just about open skies but in terms of freedom of labor movement -- if a Filipino pilot can work in Malaysia without permit, the aviation sector will benefit not just with open skies but reducing the cost of doing business by having just one market." said Fernandes. "I'm a big fan of that, but it ain't gonna happen overnight."

AirAsia Group recently donated P97 million to the victims of super typhoon Haiyan. The money that was collected as cash donations on board flights and at airports across AirAsia's network will be used to rebuild 500 homes and to finance livelihood opportunities for survivors. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Air Asia Zest Announces New CEO, Increases Flights to Macau

AirAsia Zest has announced that it has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer. According to the airline's board of directors, Joy Cañeba, was appointed as CEO, board director, and accountable manager effective April 1.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
A lawyer by profession, Cañeba played a vital role in establishing AirAsia Philippines at Clark International Airport in 2011. In addition, she helped to facilitate AirAsia Philippines' acquisition of Zest Air via strategic alliance last year. Cañeba is also credited with leading the team during the rebranding and launch of AirAsia Zest.

According to Maan Hontiveros, Chairperson of AirAsia Zest and CEO of AirAsia Philippines, the company has confidence that their new CEO is the right person for the job. "We have tremendous confidence in Joy's expertise and leadership," said Hontiveros. "I have worked closely with her on many occasions when we started AirAsia Philippines. The aviation industry is going to be a lot more exciting given her fresh new perspective, impeccable work ethic and determination."

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, also expressed his confidence in the new CEO. "We are extremely happy to see Joy leading the AirAsia Zest team. She has been an advisor and counsel to AirAsia Philippines during its inception and she played a key role in establishing its brand and operations," said Fernandes. "Her knowledge of the AirAsia business, people and culture would be a brilliant addition to the existing team as they set off to create aviation history in the Philippines."

Image Source: ABS-CBN
As for Cañeba, she feels honored to have the privilege of leading AirAsia Zest. "Our strategic objectives as a team remain as fundamental today as they were when we signed the alliance with AirAsia Philippines over a year ago," said Cañeba. "We are here to transform the travel industry by staying true to our commitment to safety, integrity and excellent service."

Meanwhile, AirAsia Zest also revealed that it will be increasing the number of flights to Macau beginning in July. According to the budget carrier, it plans to increase the number of frequencies from the existing three flights per week to daily service between Manila and Macau starting July 1. Promo fares will start as low as P799 all-in. 

Flights will be operated using the company's Airbus A320 aircraft. Flight Z2 088 will depart Manila daily at 12:35pm, arriving in Macau at 2:45pm. The return flight, Z2 089, will depart Macau at 3:55pm, arriving back in Manila at 5:30pm.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Air Asia Zest Raising Fares in Time for Summer

Philippine travellers may soon have difficulty finding bargain airfares or great travel deals after AirAsia Zest revealed that it will be raising fares to recover from losses triggered by higher jet fuel prices.

zest air
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to an application submitted to the Civil Aeronautics Board, AirAsia Zest is seeking to increase its fuel surcharge on both domestic and international routes. The domestic fuel surcharge is set to increase by P100 while international fuel surcharges are set to rise anywhere from P220 to P1,550. 

Although peso fare promotions offered by local budget carriers are not challenging to find, travellers are often shocked to discover that the amount of fuel surcharges, airline fees, and local taxes amount to far more than the actual cost of the fare. Fuel surcharges alone in international flights can be more than P3,000 each way, placing an immediate damper on the excitement of grabbing a peso promo fare.

AirAsia Zest will be increasing fuel surcharges on the following domestic routes from Manila:
  • Cebu: from P300 to P400
  • Kalibo: from P300 to P400
  • Puerto Princesa: from P300 to P400
  • Tacloban: from P300 to P400
  • Tagbilaran: from P300 to P400
AirAsia Zest will be increasing fuel surcharges on the following international routes from Manila:
  • Kota Kinabalu: from P460 to P650 
  • Kuala Lumpur: from P680 to P900
  • Shanghai: from P680 to P1,600
  • Macau: from P460 to P600
  • Incheon: from P900 to P2,600
Outside of Manila, AirAsia Zest is increasing fares on the following international flights:
  • Cebu - Incheon: from P900 to P2,450 
  • Kalibo - Incheon: from P900 to P2,450
  • Kalibo - Pusan: from P900 to P2,450 
As of April 14, the price of jet fuel was up by 0.9 percent versus the previous year according to the IATA Jet Fuel Price Monitor. Although the price is currently $120.90 per barrel, the International Air Transportation Association expects prices to rise to an average of $123.30 per barrel. As fuel accounts for up to sixty percent of an airline's operating costs per passenger, the Civil Aeronautics Board permits carriers to impose a fuel surcharge as temporary relief to recover from rising jet fuel prices.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Air Asia Zest Applies for Tokyo Haneda Flights

Budget carrier AirAsia Zest is planning to launch flights to Tokyo Haneda Airport in Japan. The airline submitted an application the Civil Aeronautics Board earlier this month requesting permission to operate the flights.
air asia tokyo
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Philippine Airlines and All Nippon Airways are currently the only carriers serving the Manila to Tokyo Haneda route. PAL just launched its Haneda route with two daily flights on March 30. According to AirAsia Zest CEO Alfredo Yao, the carrier is optimistic that flights will begin soon given the nation's good relations with Japan.

"We've already applied," said Yao. "We applied this month for flights to Haneda." AirAsia Zest is planning to offer daily flights to Tokyo's second major gateway. In addition, the carrier is also evaluating a number of other route opportunities to Japan following the establishment of a new air services agreement between Japan and the Philippines.

The improvements in the Philippine commercial aviation industry including the restoration of Category 1 status from the United States FAA and the removal from the International Civil Aviation Organization's blacklist of countries with significant air safety concerns led to the establishment of a new air agreement with Japan after the country imposed restrictions on carriers from the Philippines, following counterparts in South Korea, the United States, and the European Union.

Under the restrictions imposed by Japan, Philippine carriers were unable to mount new flights to the country due to safety and security concerns in the Philippines. With the new agreement, 400 flights per week are now permitted between Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and Narita Airport in Tokyo. AirAsia Zest had previously indicated an interest to offer flights to Tokyo Narita later this year.

The Japanese government recently announced that it is planning to remove visa restrictions for Filipinos. Visa-free entry to Japan for Filipino tourists is expected to begin as early as June of this year.

Monday, April 21, 2014

AirAsia Zest Logs Highest Number of Passenger Complaints

Low-cost carrier AirAsia Zest has recorded the highest number of complaints filed at the Civil Aeronautics Board from airline passengers in the first quarter of 2014.

air asia philippines
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
According to data from the Civil Aeronautics Board, a total of 199 complaints were filed against local airlines in the first quarter of this year. The complaints follow the establishment of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights that was implemented in December 2012. 

In the first quarter of this year, 87 complaints were filed against AirAsia Zest, followed by 29 complaints against Cebu Pacific, 24 against Philippine Airlines, 18 against PAL Express, and 15 against Tigerair Philippines.

Last year, Zest Air was re-branded as AirAsia Zest, representing its new strategic alliance with AirAsia. The carrier originally operated as Asian Spirit.

The types of complaints received against air carriers included cancelled flights due to network re-alignments, delayed refunds, delayed flights, lost baggage, poor customer service, damaged baggage, and re-bookings. Cancelled flights and delayed refunds were the most frequent complaints. 

The Civil Aeronautics Board is currently working on amending guidelines in the Air Passenger Bill of Rights to address loopholes that have been encountered in the bill's implementation. According to Wyrlou Samodio, Head of CAB's Legal Division, the provisions that require amendment have already been identified. 

"We're going to coordinate with agencies like the Departments of Trade and Industry and of Transportation and Communications and present to them our recommendations to amend the Air Passsenger Bill of Rights," said Samodio. He added that the major areas for amendment would include delays and cancellation of flights where airlines created "excuses."

The Air Passenger Bill of Rights was created in 2012 to protect the interests and consumer welfare of passengers.