Monday, August 15, 2011

AirAsia Philippines turns Clark red with new Airbus and new optimism

AirAsia A320 and Arayat
AirAsia Philippines' new Airbus A320 touches down in Clark
I remember flying via AirAsia for the first time nearly three years ago enroute to Yangon from Bangkok.  The trip was uneventful, which for air trips, is a good word.  The plane wasn't new but the ride was smooth, on time and cheap.  I've since ridden AirAsia flights a few more times and wondered whether this pioneer in low-cost flights would ever consider setting up a base here in the country.  Sure, there were AirAsia flights out of Clark in the last couple of years but these were operated out of Kuala Lumpur.

So, the news about AirAsia finally touching down in the country this August 2011, is indeed great news for us budget travelers.  We were privileged to share tarmac space with members of the print and broadcast media to greet the arrival of the spanking-new Airbus A320 from Toulouse, France -- a big way to introduce AirAsia Philippines to the world-at-large.

AirAsia Pinay Beauties
AirAsia Pinay beauties
More good news.  The bigger news is that there will be another plane coming this year and another two in 2012.  Our country, while chock-full of attractions, continue to lag behind our Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of tourist arrivals.  The creation of AirAsia Philippines signifies our being part of the AirAsia network and as its CEO, Maan Hontiveros, said in the short program, the move means we will get much-needed help in terms of tourist promotion from fellow ASEAN members.  I certainly hope so.  While its first Airbus is already here, AirAsia Philippines is still awaiting official approval to start flying.  But already in the plans are flights to Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong with the second Airbus to service Bangkok, Incheon, Kalibo and Puerto Princesa.
AirAsia A320 and Philippine Flag
The first AirAsia A320 with the Philippine flag on it
A wish list.  Being based in Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark, AirAsia Philippines will largely serve the Northern and Central Luzon populace, complementing the NAIA which serves Metro Manila and Southern Luzon.  Still, I wish they would also look into improving the bus transport service for travelers based in Manila like me who sometimes opt to fly in or out via Clark.  One time I flew in via Clark a bit late in the day, I missed the shuttle bus and had to pay a premium for a cab to the bus station.  I also wish that AirAsia Philippines' online booking will not suffer the same fate as another popular low-cost carrier which announces promotions very regularly but whose site bogs down quite frequently, sometimes in the middle of a transaction.


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