AirAsia optimistic of recovery of Philippines operations
MANILA, Philippines — AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes is optimistic about the recovery path of the airline’s Philippine operations.
“The good news is most airlines are still alive. That’s impressive. I mean, a few have gone into bankruptcy protection and stuff, but most airlines are still alive. All low-cost carriers in Southeast Asia are still alive,” Fernandes said in an interview with aviation think-tank CAPA–Center for Aviation.
“Well, we kind of closed Japan. I mean that just wasn’t going to work with two planes, which is a shame, because I think we could have done a really good job in Japan. We’re virtually out of India, and I’m just going to be focusing on Southeast Asia. We’ve got a Filipino operation, that’s probably looking better than it was,” he said.
Operations and finances of AirAsia Philippines, together with other local carriers, have been severely hit by the pandemic since last year.
The company’s road to recovery, however, is seen commencing this year, with passenger traffic projected to grow steadily up to 2023.
“We’ve lived through many of these things, and this is the toughest for sure, but we’ll come back stronger,” Fernandes said, adding that, “in a nutshell, Malaysia and Thailand look the strongest, Philippines next, and Indonesia is the weakest. But there’s a silver lining there that we may be able to grow quicker afterwards. “
Revenues of AirAsia Philippines last year fell by 77 percent to P6.33 billion from P27.36 billion in 2019 as a result of travel restrictions.
Passengers carried by the airline reached only 2.01 million in 2020, 77 percent lower than the 8.55 million passengers flown in 2019.
In the first quarter, passengers carried by the airline saw a 91-percent drop from the 1.79 million passengers carried in the same period in 2020.
AirAsia Philippines is targeting to have a fully vaccinated workforce by the fourth quarter in preparation for the strong rebound of air travel.
It is optimistic that by next month, those who directly interact with guests such as its pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, and ramp agents will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fernandes, for his part, said the vaccine rollout in the country is moving in the right direction.
AirAsia Philippines currently operates a pure domestic operations, but the company earlier said it intends to resume its international flights by August.