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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Air Asia: Clark is Only Viable Secondary International Airport

The Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Philippines believes that Clark International Airport is Manila's best chance at decongesting flights at Ninoy Aquino International Airport and is the only viable alternative for a secondary international airport.

Image Source: Wikimedia
"We have always believed in the dual airport system," said Maan Hontiveros, CEO of AirAsia Philippines. "We have always believed that this is Clark. It will complement the operations of Ninoy Aquino International Airport."

As affirmation of AirAsia's position, Hontiveros highlighted the resumption of direct flights offered between Clark and Kuala Lumpur by parent company, Malaysia-based Air Asia Berhad. Hontiveros was on hand at Clark International Airport last month to welcome the return of AirAsia to Clark on October 17. The new flights will be operated four times weekly.

AirAsia Philippines last served Clark approximately one year ago when it relocated its primary hub to Ninoy Aquino International Airport after it formed a strategic alliance with what was then known as Zest Airways. "We always said it was temporary," said Hontiveros. "Now we are back." Those sentiments were echoed by AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes earlier this year when he stated that the carrier would one day return to Clark. "We love Clark," said Fernandes.

However, in spite of the return of direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Clark, it remains unclear when AirAsia will resume flights at Clark as a secondary base. Clark International Airport was previously AirAsia Philippines' primary hub in the Philippines. Hontiveros added that the carrier would be back "sooner than later."

AirAsia Philippines has been concentrating its efforts on improving its strategic alliance with Zest Airways, which now operates as AirAsia Zest. In addition to streamlining operations, AirAsia has been busy infusing its company standards at Zest over the better part of the last year. This resulted in the airline folding up operations at Clark in order to bring their best people to Manila.

"It wasn't practical if we were operating at two places at one time," said Hontiveros. Both carriers now operate out of Terminal 4 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Hontiveros added that AirAsia had "lost money and not profited" during its time at Clark International Airport, but that it was to be expected. The irrational competition in the Philippine market with an excessive number of carriers and the high cost of aviation gas all contributed to the inability to generate a profit.

However, with the recent decision of the Supreme Court to limit the increase of gasoline prices on foreign flights, Hontiveros remains optimistic that AirAsia, voted World's Best Low-Cost Airline for several consecutive years, will begin to profit in 2015 at Clark and NAIA.

Meanwhile, officials at Clark International Airport are pleased to see the return of AirAsia to the Pampanga gateway. "I think this is a positive development for Clark Airport," said Emigdio Tanguatco III, CEO of Clark International Airport. "On our part, we will try to keep them satisfied, make sure that all their concerns are addressed and build a better relationship with AirAsia." The airport has struggled to attract a large number of passengers and major carriers due to its distance from Manila and the lack of available public transport. 

Clark International Airport is hoping that AirAsia Philippines will shift its operations once again back to Clark. "We hope based on the conversations with Maan Hontiveros that they are very impressed with the new developments at the airport and that they will try to convince their Manila operations to transfer at Clark," said Tanjuatco.

Hontiveros noted that the return of flights between Clark and Kuala Lumpur is a positive development for both Clark Airport and Air Asia. "We are very happy as passengers are excited about the return of the Clark-Kuala Lumpur flights at Clark Airport and we will continue providing a much better travel experience for our passengers taking their flights at Clark," said Hontiveros. Passengers travelling to Kuala Lumpur from Clark can take advantage of AirAsia's extensive network out of its main hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Air Asia Zest Transferring More International Flights to Terminal 3

Following the recent completion of the revitalization program at Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 3, AirAsia Zest has announced that it will be transferring more of its international flights from the highly congested Terminal 4 to the modern Terminal 3.
Copyright Photo: Diego Roxas/PPSG
According to AirAsia Zest, flights operating from Manila to Kota Kinabalu, Macau, and Seoul Incheon will begin flying out of Terminal 3 effective September 15, 2014. The changes apply to the following flights:

  • Z2501: Manila to Kota Kinabalu 
  • Z2502: Kota Kinabalu to Manila 
  • Z2088: Manila to Macau 
  • Z2089: Macau to Manila 
  • Z2084: Manila to Seoul Incheon 
  • Z2085: Seoul Incheon to Manila 
However, international flights to Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai will continue to be operated from NAIA Terminal 4. Earlier this year, AirAsia Group's Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes accused the Manila International Airport Authority of unfair treatment over being charged the same fees to operate from the older and congested Terminal 4, compared to the modern and spacious Terminal 3.

"It is just not right. AirAsia and my Filipino partners have invested a fortune, and we are creating lots of jobs. Really, we are being treated third class," said Fernandes. "I feel very bad for my staff. I don't mind operating in Terminal 4, but then charge us appropriately." Fernandes illustrated his point by comparing Terminal 4 to his budget hotel chain, Tune Hotels, while Terminal 3 was compared to Shangri-La. "If I'm in a Shangri-La Hotel, I pay Shangri-La Hotel rates. If I'm in Tune Hotel, I pay Tune Hotel rates. Terminal 4 is a Tune Hotel," added Fernandes.

AirAsia has expressed the desire to transfer more of its international operations to Terminal 4. However, the Manila International Airport Authority has not been able to accommodate them. This has hampered the further expansion of AirAsia to more international destinations from Manila. The carrier has said that the operating environment in the Philippines continues to be challenging, although it expects improved performance in the remainder of the year.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Zest may be mounting new flights from Manila to Myanmar after the carrier was recently granted 1,260 seats to Yangon by the Civil Aeronautics Board. According to Joy Caneba, CEO of AirAsia Zest, the carrier is still evaluating when to begin mounting flights.

"Myanmar will be an alternative destination to Filipino tourists and the Myanmar's government decision to extend visa free privileges to Filipinos last year is welcome support," said Caneba. The news follows the establishment of a new air service agreement between the two countries that provides carriers up to 3,780 weekly seats between Manila and Myanmar, in addition to unlimited traffic rights to Myanmar from points outside of Manila.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

AirAsia Zest Flight Review: Manila to Kuala Lumpur

It was the morning of July 31, 2014 when I arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4 to catch a flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via AirAsia Zest. It was my first time to use this carrier for an international flight and sadly, I would say that my expectations were not met. The AirAsia Group has been proclaimed as the ‘World’s Best Low Cost Carrier’ for the last six consecutive years. However, their Philippine affiliates are still in need of much improvement before being worthy of that title.

PRE-DEPARTURE

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The international departure gate at NAIA Terminal 4.
The international departure entrance at NAIA Terminal 4 was crowded with people constantly lining up outside just to get in the terminal because the space inside is very limited. Once you get in, the mandatory security check is performed and passengers are guided to pay the travel tax of Php 1,620, which foreign visitors are exempted from paying. Afterwards, passengers line up for check-in.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The long lines after the mandatory security check.
As with other airlines, the web-check in was available for this flight but no counter was allocated for people who had availed of this service. I asked the AirAsia ground crew if they would open a dedicated line and I patiently explained to them that it was more convenient for passengers (especially me) to just drop our bags. However, the agent responded that there would be no counter for web-check in as only 3 counters were available for me to drop my baggage. I lined up at exactly 4:20am and was consistently tweeting @AirAsiaPH to show pictures of the crowded terminal. Terminal 4 is horribly inadequate with no live flight information display panels and check-in baggage is manually handled by AirAsia ground crew rather than using conveyor belts.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Patiently waiting for more than 25 minutes for check-in.
I reached the check-in counter at 5:00am and was assisted by a member of the AirAsia ground crew who had just assisted two elderly people with their excess baggage. To my surprise, I observed that the female agent was not helpful, patient, or empathetic to the elderly passengers. I was standing in front of her doing my check-in and she suddenly blurted out, "Naiinis na ako sa dalawang matandang ito, hindi marunong umitindi. Eh inililipat mo lang sa kabilang bag, dapat doon sa kabila." ("These two seniors cannot understand what I mean. They keep on transferring their stuff from one baggage to the other.") Without excusing herself, she interrupted my check-in, turned her back on me, and went back to the elderly passengers to explain in an impatient tone what they needed to do with their baggage. Then she abruptly reappeared to finish my check-in. As I passed by the two elderly passengers, I overheard the man say, "Ang hirap naman sa pasahero. Senior na nga kami tapos ganito pa." ("This is just so inconvenient. We are already seniors and we need to experience things like this.")

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The impatient AirAsia staff member that was not helpful towards
the two elderly guests.
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Another shot of the unhelpful employee during boarding.
It was nearly an hour before I reached the line to pay the terminal fee of Php 550 and I could still see the two elderly folks fixing their luggage. When I was about to line for immigration, I saw the old man approach the AirAsia agent once again to check again if the weight of his luggage was already good. She impatiently explained once again what they needed to do in the same raised tone of voice and literally turned her back on them to finish her check-in duties. As my passport got stamped by the immigration officer, I turned my back to glance at the two elderly people now being helped by a security officer to get their luggage down to the required weight. It was painful to observe this AirAsia agent put these elderly guests through such an exhaustive and frustrating experience regardless of who was at fault.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The snack bar found inside the pre-departure hall.
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The limited seats inside the pre-departure hall.
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The boarding gates finally opened.
The pre-departure area for international flights at NAIA Terminal 4 was as limited in size and amenities as the check-in area with just a make-shift snack bar to the right of the boarding gate. As I finished buying my coffee, I saw the elderly passengers walk into the waiting lounge and sit in the front row of seats. The boarding of the aircraft started at 6:30am, which was 20 minutes later than the expected time for boarding. Since it was raining, we were not asked to walk on the ramp but were instead brought by an AirAsia bus. The aircraft that they used was the same as the one I had reviewed on my Puerto Princesa flight. It had the old Zest Airways livery and carried the registration: RP-C8990.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The middle aircraft was the one used for our flight.


IN-FLIGHT

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Cebu Pacific taxiing for the runway at NAIA.
The flight departed at 7:15am, which was 35 minutes later than the scheduled time of departure. I cannot really say much about it because air traffic congestion at NAIA will likely be blamed. Several minutes after departure, the seat belt sign was turned off.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
My window view after take-off.
An announcement was later made that people who had pre-booked hot meals would be served first, followed by the other remaining passengers. The pre-booked meal cost Php 135 online and if bought on board, it would cost Php 200.

airasia in-flight meal
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Korean Beef Stew with Complimentary Strawberry Yoghurt
I opted for Korean Beef Stew and was surprised that it comes with a complimentary strawberry yoghurt. It was good for a quick breakfast and I would say that the taste was not as bland as I expected. After eating, I found the time to check out AirAsia's in-flight magazine, Travel 3sixty.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The in-flight magazine and safety instructions.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
It's not bad to carry your own personal device. Got bored during flight.
It was still the July issue and it had more interesting topics compared to Cebu Pacific’s Smile Magazine. However, the in-flight menu was missing, even at the empty seat beside me as well. There was nothing much to review of the cabin crew's performance but I noticed that trainees were serving us. They just patiently followed the seasoned crew members on how to assist guests during the flight. After about three and a half hours, we landed later than scheduled at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
The tallest Air Traffic Control Tower can be seen at KLIA 2.
FINAL RATINGS
  • Check-in Process (1/10): AirAsia has only 3 international counters at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 and nothing has been designated for web check-in passengers.
  • In-Flight Entertainment (N/A): As expected, no IFE as this is a low-cost carrier.
  • Food (7/10): The food had taste and it was still hot when it was served to me. 
  • Cabin Crew (8/10): I felt that the cabin crew were confident in assisting guests during the flight.
  • Baggage Handling (2/10): I gave this score not because my baggage was lost, damaged or stolen, but rather because I want to see my luggage handled upon check-in by a conveyor belt, instead of an employee.
  • Seat Comfort (7/10): As expected with any low-cost carrier.
  • Overall (5/10): Gave this score due to the pre-flight encounter with the AirAsia ground crew.
I would definitely say that AirAsia Zest would be my last option if I was to fly again on an international flight with a low-cost carrier. They did not offer the convenience or seamless experience at the airport that I was expecting from checking in online in advance. It was a good thing I headed early to the airport. In addition, the incident that I observed with the elderly couple was disappointing from a customer service standpoint and should be addressed by AirAsia Zest management. I certainly hope that a video will not be necessary just to prove my point. Although web check-in guests are not accommodated on international flights, I certainly hope that passengers that take advantage of AirAsia's new Premium Flex service will be accommodated accordingly by AirAsia's Philippine subsidiaries.

-Travelling_bk

Pictures of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (Low Cost Carrier Terminal):

klia 2
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
AirAsia Aircraft Parked at KLIA 2.
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
Walkalators in order to get to the baggage claim area.
klia 2
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
"Selamat Datang" or "Welcome" in English.
klia 2
Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
That is how far you need to walk from the gates. This shot was
taken at the bridge connecting the two bays of KLIA 2.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AirAsia Launches New Premium Flex for Business Travelers

AirAsia has once again revolutionized the experience of travelling by introducing a new product known as, "Premium Flex." The service was launched last Monday, designed to cater to business travellers who often have unpredictable schedules, but at the same time expect comfort and convenience during flights.

Copyright Photo: AirAsia

The AirAsia Group has seen growing demand for business travel and would like to make the experience more exciting and relevant to their passengers. According to Kenny Wong, AirAsia Group's Head of Ancillary, “With unpredictable schedules that business travellers keep, Premium Flex offers a peace of mind and convenience to change their flights at their fingertips, via their computer or handheld devices. It is the best deal in town as we offer the lowest fares while providing services and products at the highest quality.”

Under the Premium Flex program, business travellers can enjoy the flexibility to seamlessly change their flights even two hours prior to their scheduled departure for no additional fee. In addition, passengers are permitted to change their flight up to two times without incurring additional change fees. Passengers may change their flights up to two hours prior to their original flight, or up to three hours for any subsequent flights. Passengers travelling on board AirAsia X have until four hours prior to the scheduled departure to change flights.

As the world's best low cost airline for the last six consecutive years, AirAsia is raising the bar in the industry once again as it becomes the first low-cost carrier in Asia to offer a product designed exclusively for the needs of business travellers. The airline is constantly seeking to innovate and improve their products and services to fit the demands of consumers. "Ancillary income contributes around 20% of our revenue and we are determined to boost this further with new products and services," said Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer. "The flexibility and other perks are designed to provide a travel experience with high satisfaction standards which I am confident will be a hit.”

IS AIR ASIA PREMIUM FLEX RIGHT FOR YOU?

All AirAsia flights (except for Sri Lanka) will offer the Premium Flex product, which passengers can enjoy aboard both AirAsia and AirAsia X. Passengers can take advantage of a number of exclusive benefits including:

  • 20 kg checked baggage allowance
  • Pick A Seat Standard or Premium Seats (subject to availability)
  • Xpress baggage (Priority Baggage)
  • Xpress boarding (Priority Boarding)
  • Guests are allowed to change their flights up to 2 times with no change fee
  • Flight changes originating from the Philippines (PQ and Z2) may be done 3 hours before the scheduled time of departure.
  • If you are BIG points user, you will earn 1 point for every RM1 you pay

In order to enjoy the benefits of Premium Flex, Philippine travellers will need to pay an additional fee of just Php 520 for AirAsia Philippines flights. By upgrading to the Premium Flex service, passengers can enjoy savings of up to Php 4,200. "For a traveller who is conscious about costs, for example, you'll be able to get certain amounts of flexibility, and additional product offerings," said Fernandes.

Sources: CAPA,AirAsia

Thursday, August 7, 2014

AirAsia: World's Best Low Cost Carrier for 6 Consecutive Years

Malaysia head-quartered AirAsia was once again named as the "World's Best Low Cost Airline" and "Asia's Best Low Cost Airline" at the recent World Airline Awards in Farnborough, UK. This is the sixth consecutive year that AirAsia has earned the award, which is regarded as one of the most prestigious in the airline industry, demonstrating a global benchmark of airline excellence.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes receiving the award for
'World's Best Low Cost Carrier'
Copyright Photo: AirAsia Group
The ranking is based on a survey of 18.9 million passengers worldwide measuring 41 key performance metrics of an airline's products and services. The most recent survey was conducted between the months of August 2013 and May 2014 covering almost 245 airlines. In the Philippines, AirAsia is represented by local affiliates, AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia Zest.

Tony Fernandes, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Group received the award and thanked guests for their valuable feedback and criticism which allows the airline to improve its service. The airline started twelve years ago with two ageing aircraft with six routes. That has since grown to a fleet of 160 aircraft, flying to 95 destinations, and serving nearly 250 million guests annually. Fernandes also attributed the airline's success to the support it gets from airport authorities, which they invite to work as a team. Through Fernandes' vision of constant change and innovation, AirAsia continues to be one of the world's best airline companies.

Meanwhile, Fernandes announced the return of AirAsia Japan and the launch of AirAsia India. “This year, we are proud to announce a comeback in the low cost carrier market in Japan with new partners and investors. We shall re-emerge with a greater strategy and business plan in our quest to revolutionize Japan’s LCC segment," said Fernandes. "We are also ecstatic with the grand launch of AirAsia India, our latest affiliate committed to innovatively tap into India’s under-served aviation market, and becoming the obvious choice for low cost travel in India, via lowest fares and unparalleled service and product options.”

The AirAsia Group boasts the youngest fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft in the world across all of its affiliates in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Japan. It is best known for its consumer-friendly products and services, everyday low fares, and extensive route network throughout Asia, India, and Australia.

With a mission to change air travel in the region, AirAsia has been regarded as the market leader and innovator in travel and technology. In addition to flights, AirAsia prides itself on its convenient online and mobile booking options, downloadable interactive travel guides, self check-in system, and a number of other innovative features that represent the latest in airline trends.

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