Air Asia to make Davao City hub for int’l flights in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) — Malaysia’s budget airline AirAsia plans to make Davao City as a hub for international flights in Mindanao, as it announced Friday the launch of its first-ever direct flight four times a week from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Davao City starting December 21, 2017.

“Definitely,” AirAsia chief executive officer Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes said when asked if Friday’s announcement was a response to the call of the city’s private sector to the airlines to make the city as a hub for international flights in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with AirAsia CEO Anthony Fernandes who paid a courtesy call on the President at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on July 21, 2017. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

On July 10, Arturo Milan, trustee of the Davao City Camber of Commerce and Industry inc. (DCCCII) appealed to any airline company to look at Davao City as hub for international flights to decongest traffic in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

This new route will bring to four the total number of  AirAsia’s direct connectivity to Malaysia after Manila, Cebu and Kalibo in Aklan.

At the sidelines of the 4th Davao Investment Conference (Davao iCon) at the SMX Convention Center Davao Friday, Fernandes said the launch of this new air connectivity came after his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte who urged him to open a new flight from the Davao City to Malaysia during their meeting in Cambodia last May 2017 for the World Economic Forum on Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In that meeting, Fernandes said he discussed with the President about his plan to open a new air connectivity between Malaysia and Puerto Princesa but Duterte told him to take a look at Davao, his hometown where he served as mayor for 22 years.

The airline executive said he immediately made a research on Davao and saw its potential as a viable destination for tourism.

Fernandes said they discussed how Philippine government and AirAsia can collaborate in developing the country as a tourism hub.

“We just talked about what Air Asia can do for the Philippines, and we think that there’s massive amount of tourism potential here, massive amount of young Filipinos who want to travel more as well… We talked about what the Philippine government can do to help us,” he said.

He said the air route will be serviced initially by one aircraft but added they may eventually add more should the demand from travellers pick up.

But he hopes the Philippine government would consider lifting travel tax on airline companies, most especially in destinations here with no international flights yet.

“You’re not losing much by removing travel tax, for instance in Davao. Tourism department is not losing a lot. And so we could grow quicker,” he said.

“We think tourism is a massive opportunity for the Philippines,” he said.

Without disclosing anymore details, Fernandes said they are planning to strengthen their operations in Visayas and Mindanao.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio thanked AirAsia for putting up a new direct connectivity from Davao City.

“The air linkages, connectivity will open up doors for investors in Davao City as well as businessmen in Kuala Lumpur. We welcome this investment by AirAsia in Davao City. And this trust in Air Asia in the capability of Davao City to maintain the confidence in the investment opportunity,” she said.

She added the city and Malaysia can sustain the flights.

An AirAsia briefer said Kuala Lumpur alone boasts of a “world-famous landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC), and the surrounding attractions that host cultural elements from the various ethnicities represented in Malaysia are some must-visit sites when visiting the capital city.”

The airline also launched this year new flights from Davao to Cebu, Palawan and Boracay, and enabled Fly-Thru via Cebu to international destinations such as Singapore, Taipei and Seoul.

The company services 120 destinations in the world to date, with established operations based in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines as well as India and Japan, servicing a network stretching across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the Middle East and the US.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)