AirAsia exec sees bright 2019 for aviation industry

MANILA — AirAsia Philippines chief executive officer Dexter Comendador sees a bright future ahead for the Philippine aviation industry this year.

In an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Comendador said government agencies are collaborating to help the industry grow and improve, with tourism and infrastructure projects either ongoing or in the pipeline.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the DOTr (Department of Transportation), the DOT (Department of Tourism) and the aviation industry collaborate and develop tourism infrastructure,” he said.

During their convergence meeting in December last year, which aimed to set criteria for the airports to be prioritized, Comendador said airline representatives were asked about their target destinations.

“From our answers, the DOTr said it will develop the airports in those areas. The DOT, for its part, said it will improve the destinations and hotels in those areas,” he said. Among the destinations include Bacolod and Iloilo, he added.

Plans are also in the pipeline to develop regional airports to promote tourism growth, with focus on modernizing the infrastructure and facilities of the airports in provinces to provide direct flights from tourists in major gateways of the country such as Manila, Cebu, Davao and Clark.

In October last year, world-renowned resort island Boracay was reopened to the public after a six-month rehabilitation. Other popular destinations, which includes Manila Bay, are also up for rehabilitation.

When asked if the surging prices of oil would affect the aviation industry, he said he does not see the possibility of rising fuel surcharge for this year.

“I don’t think the price of fuel would increase (remarkably),” he said.

In a 2017 study, the Australia-based Center for Aviation said the Philippines international market has more than doubled over the last decade, from only 11.5 million passengers in 2007 to 24.4 million passengers in 2017.

Data from the Manila International Airport Authority showed that in 2018, international passenger traffic at the country’s premier gateway NAIA reached 22,973,510 and domestic passengers at 22,142,186.

Meanwhile, Comendador is also looking forward to robust operations and more expansions for AirAsia Philippines this year.

“We will have additional three planes for this year. We will also launch new routes and increase flight frequencies in some destinations,” he said.

Comendador said AirAsia would launch a Japan route by the middle of the year. “I’m thinking of Narita, or Osaka, or Fukuoka,” he said.

A Vietnam route will also be launched, though there is no target date yet.

Aside from the new routes, Comendador added that AirAsia would increase its flight frequencies to China and Korea.  Ma. Cristina Arayata / PNA –