Back to the Future as AirAsia Moves Back its hub to Clark, Philippines

A picture of the potentially future Clark Airport

Philippines AirAsia took in 2013 the decision to move most of its traffic from Clark to Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) arguing at that time that NAIA was the most convenient gateway for passengers wishing to reach Philippines capital city. Four years have passed and the carrier just announced to move back all of its operation to Clark International Airport again. Not due to the fact that the airport is anyway closer from Manila- with a bit of luck, passengers might reach Manila out of Clark in two hours time. But the airline has been lured by the fact that the Filipino government removed navigational fees to support operations at the airport and that there is no possibility to further grow traffic in the increasingly congested NAIA.

“We plan to establish Clark as our main hub, because Manila is too crowded. If I have 70 planes in 10 years, I do not have a place to park in Manila. So, the government was gracious enough to comply with our request. We need more airports,” Capt. Dexter Comendador, chief executive of Philippines AirAsia, declared to Filipino media.

The Philippines subsidiary of the AirAsia Group plans to have a total 26 aircraft by end-2018. Comendador said the government removed airport fees and navigational fees in Clark and was also expected to remove travel tax to attract more passengers to fly in Clark.

“Since we are opening Clark as a hub, we plan to fly to Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei,” Comendador said.  They are also plans for Thai AirAsia to add soon flights from Bangkok.

Philippines Air Asia resumed flights from Clark with three weekly flights to Kalibo (Boracay) in March. AirAsia Philippines operates a fleet of 17 aircraft with domestic and international flights out of hubs in Manila, Cebu and Kalibo.

The airline operates several flights to/from Manila, Davao, Cebu, Kalibo, Caticlan (Boracay), Tacloban, Tagbilaran (Bohol), Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Clark, and Iloilo in the Philippines with international flights to/from Shanghai, Taipei, Incheon (Seoul), Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Guangzhou, Indonesia and Singapore. Latest addition is a three-weekly service from Manila to Ho Chi Minh City in coming November.

Malaysia’s Air Asia, through AA International, owns 40 percent of Philippines’ Air Asia Inc., while Filipinos Marriane Hontiveros, Michael Romero, Antonio Cojuangco and Alfredo Yao hold the balance of 60 percent.

They are plans to build a new terminal for eight million passengers at Clark Airport, a plan which has been regularly on the table over the last 12 years. Clark Airport authority is now looking at bidding for three dozens companies with a possible completion for the terminal set for 2020. There is also a plan to finally connect the airport by rail to Manila. The future rail connection would then reduce travel time from two hours to less than one hour.