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AirAsia Zest, formally Zest Air, is a LCC based in Manila. With hubs at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Kalibo International Airport and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, AirAsia Zest uses a fleet of narrow-body A320 aircraft to serve a network of domestic and regional destinations within the Philippines and Asia. On 10-May-2013, AirAsia Group announced plans to integrate AirAsia Philippines into Zest in order to maximise fleet utilisation between both carriers and slot allocations from Manila.
Location of AirAsia Zest main hub (Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider AirAsia Zest fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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14 total articles
Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air is planning further domestic expansion in 2014 using a combination of organic growth and flights operated by its newly acquired subsidiary Tigerair Philippines. The expansion could see the group’s share of the Philippine domestic market, which in 2013 reached 50% for the first time, approach 60%.
Cebu Pacific expects to grow domestic capacity by 9% in 2014, roughly matching the growth from 2013. The expansion comes despite Cebu Pacific reducing the size of its narrowbody fleet as a result of the anticipated transfer of four A320 family aircraft to Tigerair Philippines. Under Cebu Pacific, Tigerair Philippines will remain a separate operation but will return its current fleet of five aircraft to the Tigerair Group.
Cebu Pacific will further build on its already leading 50% share of the market as it takes over Tigerair’s 5% share while also continuing to expand the Cebu Pacific operation. But the share of the market it will ultimately secure in 2014 will partially hinge on the response of its two remaining competitors, the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and AirAsia groups.
Cebu Pacific’s potential acquisition of Tigerair Philippines would cement its leading position in the Philippine domestic market and result in another round of consolidation in a market which has at times suffered from irrational competition. Domestic trunk routes would be left with competition from only three airline groups – Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and AirAsia – compared to five one year ago.
Philippine authorities will need to determine if three players are sufficient to maintain competition. With no available slots at Manila, it will be nearly impossible for a new carrier to enter the market.
A Cebu Pacific takeover of Tigerair Philippines could be seen as a defensive move to prevent another airline group from making a move. But with Tigerair Philippines unlikely to have many suitors, the acquisition should be viewed more as a smart strategic move to increase Cebu’s slot portfolio at Manila. Divesting of its loss-making Philippine affiliate would also be a smart strategic move for Tigerair as it would allow the LCC group to focus on launching an affiliate in Taiwan and growing in Australia and Indonesia, bigger markets of more strategic importance.
The Philippines-Japan market is poised to see a huge influx of capacity, driven primarily by expansion from Philippine low-cost carriers. The expansion is made possible by a new air services agreement between the two countries and the lifting of restrictions by Japanese authorities on Philippine carriers.
Cebu Pacific Air, which currently only serves one destination in Japan with three weekly flights, is seeking the biggest expansion with at least 80 additional weekly flights and eight new destinations. AirAsia is planning to enter the Philippines-Japan market with 32 weekly flights while Tigerair is looking to enter with 56 weekly flights.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its regional subsidiary PAL Express are seeking to add 63 weekly flights. PAL is currently the market leader with 31 weekly flights to Japan. In the total there are currently only 76 weekly flights between the two countries, a figure which should quickly double and possibly triple depending on how many of the proposed new flights are implemented.
AirAsia is attempting to turn around its struggling operations in the Philippines by closing its base at Manila alternative airport Clark and focusing on expansion at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport using slots held by new partner Zest Air. AirAsia is also seeking approval for Zest to adopt the AirAsia brand, giving the LCC group two carriers in the Philippine market but a single product.
AirAsia has struggled in the Philippine market since it launched Philippines AirAsia in Mar-2012. The new affiliate’s base at Clark has been highly unprofitable with limited growth opportunities.
Shifting focus to Manila significantly improves AirAsia Group’s outlook in the Philippines. But AirAsia will still need to overcome intense competition from market leader Cebu Pacific, which has a much stronger position at Manila, as well as the Philippine Airlines Group and Tigerair Philippines.
This is the second part of a series of articles looking at the outlook for Philippine carriers. The first part, published on 19-Mar-2013, analysed the strong position of market leader Cebu Pacific.
Part 2 looks at the recent tie up between AirAsia Philippines and Zest Air, which along with new Tiger Airways affiliate SEAir are looking to improve their relatively weak positioning in the highly competitive Philippine market. Part 3 will look at flag carrier Philippine Airlines and the recent rebranding and strategy shift at PAL Express, previously known as AirPhil Express.
AirAsia Philippines and privately owned Zest Air unveiled a strategic partnership on 11-Mar-2013 which included an equity swap, with AirAsia Philippines taking a 49% stake in Zest in exchange for a 15% stake in AirAsia Philippines. The partnership is expected to result in the AirAsia brand entering the Manila market, using the slots and traffic rights held by Zest. AirAsia currently only serves Manila's alternative airport, Clark.
The Philippine Airlines (PAL) Group is implementing a misguided new strategy that involves its budget airline subsidiary pulling off several domestic trunk routes. AirPhil Express, which is planning to be soon re-branded as PAL Express, has redeployed capacity from trunk to leisure and secondary routes, which it has taken over from PAL following a surprising decision by the Group that the two brands should remove nearly all overlap in their route networks.
The move, implemented on 28-Oct-2012, goes against the grain of typical two-brand strategy at Asian airline groups, which have discovered that they can successfully use their LCCs to operate alongside their full service brand. As Philippine Airlines and AirPhil Express (soon PAL Express) brands cater to different sectors of the market, the two should be able to co-exist on trunk routes with minimal cannibalisation. Most crucially, PAL Group needs the second budget brand on domestic trunk routes to compete with rival LCCs. The Philippines has a crowded and intensely competitive LCC sector and it will be the Philippines’ four other LCCs that stand to gain the most as the PAL Group removes its budget brand from several of the country’s largest domestic markets.