In what is seen as a blow to Clark's airport bid to be the next major gateway in Luzon, AirAsia Philippines suspended its international and local flights from Clark International Airport, as the airline controlled by Tony Fernandes prepares to move its Philippine hub to Manila.
"AirAsia Phillipines is moving to Manila. More choice more value. The world's best low cost airline going to NAIA," Fernandes said on his Twitter account.
He said while Clark flights will be temporarily suspended, AirAsia operations in Clark will resume eventually.
AirAsia Philippines CEO Maan Hontiveros earlier confirmed the airline is temporarily suspending two domestic and two international flights from Clark. Airline is taking over Zest Airways, which has Manila as hub of its operations.
AirAsia sad on October 9, flights to Kalibo and Davao would be suspended while flights to Hong Kong and Taipei would be stopped on November 6. AirAsia suspended its Clark-Singapore flight on August 1.
Hontiveros, however, said the flight suspension was just temporary.
“Clark will still be our hub. This is a temporary suspension of flights. Hong Kong will resume in December for the Christmas season since the loads in Hong Kong are good. But Taipei is not that great,” she said.
Hontiveros said AirAsia is “hoping to be able to help ZestAir normalize [operation].”
“We want to assist Zest Airways at this time. We’ve invested in Zest quite heavily. It suffered an unprecedented setback because of that ground,” Hontiveros said, referring to the Aug. 16 suspension slapped by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines on Zest Air due to “continuing violations on the safety standards under the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations.”
“We’re dealing with a lot of customer complaints and cancellations because of safety reasons, which is not true. It’s just a public perception,” she said.
Hontiveros said ZestAir has wider operations in Manila compared to AirAsia in Clark.
“Our backroom operations would like to be able to have them assist. With the Federal Aviation Administration lifting the category 2 status, there would be options for us to operate to Korea, Japan and even the US,” Hontiveros said.
AirAsia Philippines owns 49 percent of the voting rights and 85 percent of the economic interest in ZestAir following a marketing agreement entered into by the two budget airlines.
The transaction, completed on May 10, includes the acquisition of 100 percent of the shareholdings in Asiawide Airways Inc.