Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ten Minutes with AirAsia Philippines CEO, Maan Hontiveros: on True Value, Travels and Transparency

AirAsia Philippines Kick Off - CEO Maan Hontiveros
Maan addresses the media via the plane's public address system
It took AirAsia Philippines nearly six months from its launch last year to get its license to fly. But it surely made up for the long wait as its 20,000 Free Seats inaugural promo set its Twitter and Facebook fans and followers into a frenzy of wanderlust and instant bookings for Boracay and Davao.  At the center of the buzz and excitement is AirAsia Philippines CEO, Marianne Hontiveros (more popularly known as Maan), the first-ever female CEO in the AirAsia network.

During the kick-off for the promotion aptly held inside the cool and cozy brand-new Airbus A320 (it even smelled new!) at the AirAsia hub at Clark Airport, Lagal[og] got a chance to sit down and chat with this effervescent leader to get her thoughts about traveling, delivering true value through low cost but high value airline travel and the importance of being transparent:

Lagal[og]: When I was younger, I used to see you on TV.  And now, you're the CEO of an airline.  What got you into the travel/airline business?
Maan:  People ask what are my qualifications to be the CEO of an airline when my background is in the music industry.  Well, I must say that's because I'm a traveler myself.  I know what a traveler wants.

I started getting passionate about traveling way back in the 60s, when I traveled with friends and stayed in all those student hotels.  On the other hand, Tony Fernandes (AirAsia founder) and I share the same background.  We became friends as part of the music industry (Maan representing Warner Music Philippines and Tony, Warner Music of Malaysia).
AirAsia Philippines Kick Off - Banner Story
The banner story
Lagal[og]:  Since AirAsia flies to a lot of Asian destinations, I would like to ask what are your favorite places in Asia?
Maan:  There are so many and each one has its own charm.  (After a bit of probing, relents) I like Siem Reap, Vietnam.  (When asked which place she keeps coming back to) It's Bali.  It's exciting to be part of the Asian network, imagine, there are four world heritage sites in this region.

Lagal[og]:  How about your favorite places here in the country?
Maan:  Because I dive, I love Tubbataha and Palawan.  (When asked if AirAsia will service the Palawan route) Yes, we will soon fly to Puerto Princesa.

Lagal[og]:  What do you think will be the impact of AirAsia Philippines on local tourism?
Maan:  Positive I must say.  Imagine, right now, we expect only four million visitors in a country of over 100 million people.  Instead of feeling sorry about this (situation), we can instead help bring in more tourists.

Lagal[og]:  With the economy as it is now, how do you see the outlook of low-cost airline travel?
Maan:  It is the future of travel.  It's bright, otherwise, I wouldn't put my whole heart, my resources, into it.  (In a year) we will be expanding.
Lagal[og]:  I really liked how you chose the word "transparency" to describe the 20,000 Free Seats promo which is actually zero fare where customers only need to pay an all-in cost of P275.  Do you think this will result in more discerning travelers?  How do you think this will impact the way we travel?
Maan:  I know that come-ons (so-and so-peso/dollar low cost promotions) are common and popular all over the world.  But as a newcomer, we would like to come on strong and change that.  We will actually show you how much we're really charging you (upfront).   We don't want to disappoint our guests with hidden charges or misleading promotions. Soon, travelers will look more closely into what they're paying for and other airlines will have to follow (our lead).

Lagal[og]:  In closing, what other things would set AirAsia Philippines apart from its low-cost competitors apart from transparency in declaring actual fares?  Would you be addressing such important issues as punctuality?
Maan:  I'm a traveler first so I know what a traveler wants.  But don't get me wrong.  I want this airline to be profitable so it can grow.  But I also want to offer good value.  I want to give travelers a choice -- to pay only for what they use.  We also have newer planes and rigid, regular maintenance schedules so we'll have less worries about maintenance problems.  And the reason why we chose Clark as our hub is because we can keep our 25-minute turn-around time.  Since there are two runways, one for landing and another for take-off, there'll be less congestion problems.
AirAsia Philippines Official Kick Off - Katherine Smile
Six-year veteran in AirAsia Malaysia, Katherine, welcomes us aboard
Lagal[og]:  I heard they will be serving adobo on this "flight"?  Will AirAsia Philippines do that on a regular flight, perhaps to help promote our food culture?

Maan:  Well, each country (in the AirAsia network) serves their local cuisine but that's a good idea.  Tell us what you honestly think about the adobo.

Lagal[og]:  We'll do, Ma'am.

Epilogue:  I normally veer away from airline food but the adobo was a pleasant surprise.  Wasn't able to tell Maan personally but hope this post will get to you -- the delicately seasoned adobo would make a good addition to the inflight menu.

Info: AirAsia Philippines just launched direct flights to Davao and Kalibo with its 20,000 FREE SEATS promo.  A zero-fare promotion, the traveler only has to pay an all-in amount of P275 (one way) to cover the fuel surcharge, processing fee and other government-mandated fees.  Visit for details.  • Attributions:  the third image taken by Ferdz Decena of


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