Southeast Asia’s largest budget carrier, AirAsia Group, said its takeover of Zest Airways Inc. has been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and it will now apply for separate approvals from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
“Our plan is to have one operation in the Philippines and call it AirAsia Philippines. We’ve just gotten already [and]secured approval from SEC we will now apply with CAB and CAAP,” Joy Cañeba, chief executive officer of AirAsia Zest, told reporters.
“The local government in most of the provinces that we are operating recognized the value of AirAsia in the Philippines and they’ve been very supportive to us,” she said.
When asked for an indicative timeline to consolidate its business in the Philippines,Cañeba said, “It is more on the regulatory obstacles that we would have because there is too much bureaucracy on that.”
Last month, both houses of Congress approved AirAsia Inc.’s (AirAsia Philippines) acquisition of budget airline operator Zest Airways Inc. (AirAsia Zest).
In October last year the carrier held a formal launching of the AirAsia Zest brand.
In March 2013, AirAsia Philippines and Zest Airways signed a strategic partnership. Under the agreement, AirAsia would acquire a 49-percent stake in Zest Air and 100 percent in Asiawide Airways—both under the Zest Air Group. Zest Air is a low-cost carrier operating from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The AirAsia Group consists of existing operations in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and India. AirAsia is the largest Asian low-cost carrier with a combined fleet of 120 aircraft plus over 350 more on order, operating over 158 routes spread across 18 countries, of which 56 routes are unique.
When asked about the airline’s future acquisition and expansion in the country, AirAsia Group president and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes replied: “Yes, we want to invest more, but first we need to be allowed to invest more.”
“More investments will come after the takeover,” Fernandes said.
“We are doing OK and the Philippines is actually the best. The volume is up dramatically. I believe it’s the first time that there’s some light in the tunnel. It’s been very tough. The whole grounding of the airline is a massive blow, but again, Filipinos have been very supportive,” he added.
“We are taking it easy. I think the demand is there and the appetite is there. We are just a facilitator to make it happen,” Fernandes said.
In its latest reported preliminary operating statistics, AirAsia Philippines reported a load factor of 65 percent, up 6 percentage points from 59 percent recorded during the third quarter of last year.
On Monday, AirAsia introduced the “AirAsia Asean Pass” and the “AirAsia Asean Pass+” in an effort to boost travel by making traveling within the region a seamless experience. Rosalie C. Periabras