AirAsia Philippines picks DMIA as hub

By Reynaldo G. Navales
CLARK FREEPORT — Low-cost carrier AirAsia Philippines has chosen the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here as its hub.

The airline’s first aircraft, a brand new Airbus A320 commanded by Captain Johansen Hernandez, arrived at the DMIA from Toulouse, France, Monday carrying 29 people, including AirAsia Philippines chief executive officer Marianne Hontiveros, Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican Mercedes Tuason, several mediamen, and Filipino cabin crew.

“This is a proud moment for AirAsia Philippines as the arrival of the new aircraft signifies our first step in introducing ourselves to the nation,” Hontiveros said.

As an “archipelagic country,” air travel is necessary for Filipinos.

“We are here to serve and help them stay or be better connected with their families and friends by providing affordable, safe, and reliable service. Everyone can fly now,” Hontiveros said.

She also disclosed that the Air Asia is planning to make Clark as its hub for the US.

DMIA's Budget Airlines

Aside from this, the Air Asia Group has pledge to actively promote Philippines and Clark as its destination.

The establishment of AirAsia Philippines was announced in December 2010. It is 60 percent owned in equal partnership by Filipino entrepreneurs including Hontiveros, Antonio Cojuangco Jr., and Michael Romero, and 40 percent owned by AirAsia Berhad through its wholly-owned subsidiary AirAsia International Incorporated.

AirAsia Philippines is the fourth member of Air Asia Group, which include AirAsia Berhad (also known as AirAsia Malaysia), AirAsia Thailand and AirAsia Indonesia.

AirAsia Philippines is planning to start its commercial flights in the last quarter of 2011 to destinations, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Kalibo, and Puerto Princesa.

Hontiveros said the country has a great tourism potential. “With AirAsia Philippines, we hope to increase the number of tourist arrivals. This is good for the community in Clark as well as Northern and Central Luzon as they (tourists) can benefit in various areas including hospitality, retail and entertainment.”

The 180-seater Airbus A320, which landed at 11:15 a.m. from the Airbus factory in France, is the first among the four aircrafts that will be delivered to AIrAsia Philippines in its first year of operation. The airline’s second aircraft is slated to arrive later this year and another two next year.

Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) President Victor Jose Luciano thanked officials of the AirAsia Philippines for choosing Clark as one of its hubs in the Asia Pacific region.

“Today is a big day for Clark. We are grateful that you have chosen Clark,” Luciano said. “We want to propel Clark into greater heights.”

According to him, the entry of low-cost carriers like AirAsia at the DMIA will improve the country’s tourism and economy.

Luciano said the catchment area of Clark airport is Northern Manila all the way to the North. The area has a total population of about 25 million, he said.

Other officials who graced the occasion were Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, Clark Development Corporation president Felipe Antonio Remollo, Mabalacat mayor Marino Morales, and others.

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