DAVAO CITY — Malaysia-based AirAsia has yet to start flying from Davao City to Kuala Lumpur and vice versa, but the budget airline has already announced its interest to expand its services in the Philippines.
In his courtesy call on Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes expressed interest to expand its existing Davao-Singapore flights to include routes from Davao City to China, Korea and Malaysia.
“There’s a big population here. There’s a good business here. We met some farmers who wish to send their cargos directly to these places,” Fernandes was quoted in a statement released by the Department of Finance (DOF).
In July this year, AirAsia announced its latest route to Kuala Lumpur with four times weekly direct flights from Davao City starting January 21, 2018.
“Today marks the start of the next phase of our commitment to Davao. We believe Davao has the potential to be the international gateway for Asean to the southern Philippines, beginning with this new route to Kuala Lumpur,” Fernandes said at the Davao launch of the new route.
He said the company is also committed to strongly support the development of cities outside Metro Manila, and “we are confident that by increasing connectivity and accessibility to affordable air travel, AirAsia can help play a role in boosting economic growth in the south. We can’t do it alone and we need airports to share in the responsibility, but together we can make His Excellency President Duterte’s vision of a more prosperous Philippines come true.”
Fernandes was apparently referring to a “massive opportunity” in expanding the tourism sector in the Philippines once the costs of air travel in coming here are made more affordable by budget airlines whose pricing will depend on how much they are charged for the use of airport terminals.
“The President mentioned the islands here and when I checked it, I said wow, it’s really amazing and we are not worried about Marawi and all that because we think tourism is tourism. People want to come here at a right price,” Fernandes said in a meeting with Dominguez, former president of flag-carrier Philippine Airlines.
In the same meeting, Fernandes indicated the lowering or scrapping of the departure tax in small airports will help in realizing the airline’s expansion plans in the Philippines.
Dominguez, in turn, said he will look into this possibility to help slash travel costs and boost trade and tourism.
The finance chief also broached the possibility of airports selling or leasing gates to airlines at different rates depending on the landing times, in lieu of imposing airport taxes.
“I have asked the DOF representatives in the airports to tell them to consider this differential pricing, selling gates, rather than a fixed tax,” Dominguez told Fernandes.
Fernandes raised the issue of either removing or lowering the rates in small airports to encourage airlines to put in more flights as he welcomed Dominguez’s proposal for airports to sell or lease gates as a viable alternative to the airport tax. (NCB/PNA)