DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) — Due to lack of load factor, Malaysia’s budget airline AirAsia will stop its Davao City-Kuala Lumpur direct flights on August 20, eight months after its launch on December 21, 2017.
“It is regretful that AirAsia has decided to cancel its KL-Davao flights but we do understand because it is a business decision,” City Tourism Office head Generose Tecson said on Sunday.
The Malaysian airline has not issued a statement on the cancellation of the four-times-a-week direct flights but, based on its website, its last flight from Davao International Airport will be at 2:40 p.m.on August 20while succeeding flights will fly from Davao to Kuala Lumpur via Cebu.
Tecson asked the airline company to retain a weekly flight, instead of totally cancelling it.
“We hope though, that AirAsia may decide to retain even one flight a week from Kuala Lumpur to Davao, and perhaps get people used to the idea of the direct flight,” she said.
Tecson said she and officials from the Davao City Investment Promotions Center (DCIPC) met with representatives of AirAsia and the Department of Tourism to discuss their concerns on the route.
“We told DOT that bulk of the passengers are from Davao (so) perhaps DOT can help market in other neighboring regions as well as (provide) more promotions,” she said.
Malaysia is Davao’s second international destination after Singapore, currently serviced by SilkAir and Cebu Pacific.
AirAsia chief executive officer Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes himself announced the opening of the Davao-Kuala Lumpur direct flights in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte during the 4thDavao Investment Conference at the SMX Convention Center Davao on July 22, 2017.
At that time, Fernandes said the air connectivity came after his meeting with Duterte who urged him to open a new flight from Davao City to Malaysia during their meeting in Cambodia last May 2017 for the World Economic Forum on Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Fernandes even announced it would make Davao City a hub for international flights in Mindanao.
He recalled disucssing with the President his plan to open a new air connectivity between Malaysia and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan 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 tourist destination.
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. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)