GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 Oct) – Low-cost airline Philippines AirAsia Inc. finally made its inaugural flight from Manila to this city on Wednesday morning after seven months of delay due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
AirAsia’s maiden flight Z2661 departed from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:03 a.m. and arrived at the city international airport at 8:53 a.m., seven minutes ahead of its scheduled 9 a.m. arrival.
The airline utilized an Airbus A320 aircraft for the flight, which catered locally stranded individuals (LSI), authorized persons outside residence (APOR) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) from this city and the neighboring areas.
Ricardo Isla, Philippines AirAsia chief executive officer, said the inaugural flight of the Manila-General Santos route was initially scheduled in late March but was shelved due to the pandemic.
He said it was targeted to open last August but was rescheduled again and eventually made it official Wednesday.
“Finally, we are in General Santos and we are so happy that we even arrived earlier than our expected arrival,” he said during the inaugural ceremony.
The event was joined by Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, South Cotabato first district Rep. Shirlyn Nograles, city officials and other AirAsia executives.
Isla said the airline pushed to continue with its expansion here despite the pandemic to mainly accommodate residents who were stranded in Manila and other areas in Luzon in the last eight months.
He said most of the passengers of the inaugural flight were stranded for a long time in Metro Manila and will just be seeing their families for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The move also embodies their resolve to remain resilient amidst the crisis and help sustain the economic activities, he said.
He said this includes bringing the city’s tuna products to Manila, Clark in Pampanga and “all over the world.”
“We think the best place to open immediately even amidst this pandemic is no less than General Santos City,” Isla said.
City Mayor Ronnel Rivera lauded the expansion of AirAsia to the city and hopes that it will be enhanced further once the COVID-19 situation eases.
He said it complements with the city government’s continuing effort to attract more investments and sustain the area’s economic growth.
“We are looking forward to enhance this new connection and eventually promote more routes,” he said.
AirAsia will have two return flights every week from Manila to this city scheduled every Wednesday and Friday.
Due to the prevailing restrictions on domestic travel, only LSIs, APORs and ROFs will be allowed to travel and should present negative Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction test result for COVID-19 and authority to travel.
Once the regular commercial flights resume, Isla said they will offer “two-in-one” discounts of at least 50 percent for airfare and hotel accommodations in partnership with at least eight hotels here.
He said the offer, which is on top of the P511 promotional fare for the route, will be extended until June 2021. (MindaNews)