Sunday, 6 February 2011

Jetstar readies local flights

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
Manila Standard

The Transport Department said Friday local airlines should expect the entry of Australia-based Jetstar Airways in the Philippines by the end of 2011.

“[Jetstar] made a courtesy call this week. Their plans are very similar to the proposal of Air Asia,” Transport Undersecretary Glicerio Sicat told Manila Standard in a text message. “Most probably, it will be by end of 2011.”

Malaysia-based Air Asia International Ltd. formed local unit Air Asia Philippines last year and will start mounting regional flights on Sept. 1.

Air Asia owns 40 percent of the local unit while Filipino businessmen Antonio Cojuangco, Marianne Hontiveros and Michael Romero hold a combined 60 percent.

Transport Secretary Jose de Jesus said in a separate phone interview that Jetstar executives disclosed during the courtesy call that the airline was in talks with local companies for an airline venture.

“They said they are in talks with local companies but I cannot name them,” De Jesus said.

“According to them, they want to mount international flights from the Philippines. They also plan to go domestic, if [the unit is] incorporated,” he added.

De Jesus said the entry of another airline in the local aviation industry was a welcome move because cheaper air fares would encourage travel within the country and boost tourism.

“This is a free enterprise. More competition, the better,” he said.

A source earlier confirmed that Jetstar was in talks with San Miguel Corp. for its planned local unit in the country. The source said there was nothing definite yet on the planned partnership.

Jetstar earlier disclosed that a tri-weekly direct Manila-Darwin service will start on Feb. 9 as part of the airline’s increasingly integrated pan Asian network.

The service, which will use Airbus 320, will link Jetstar’s Darwin hub to key southern interstate markets, including Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns.

Jetstar’s Singapore unit is also mounting flights between Manila and Singapore.

The International Air Transport Association said passenger volume of airlines in the Asia-Pacific region grew 9 percent in 2010, ahead of the global expansion of 8.2 percent.

IATA said passenger demand growth slowed to 2.9 percent in December last year. The group said the economies of China and India continued to lead the region’s recovery.

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