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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. The two carriers continue to operate under separate Air Operator's Certificates.
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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AirAsia is optimistic its Philippine operation has turned the corner after a challenging initial three years. Philippines AirAsia has been highly unprofitable since its 2012 launch while Zest also has remained loss-making since AirAsia acquired a stake in the carrier in 2013.
AirAsia has restructured its Philippine operation over the last year, making several network adjustments while cutting overall capacity and reducing the size of its Philippine-based fleet. Costs have been reduced and unit revenues have improved through a combination of load factor and yield improvements.
But AirAsia still faces challenges in the Philippines market which will have to be overcome for its Philippine operation to become profitable on a sustainable basis and for IPO ambitions to become realistic. AirAsia is planning further expansion at Kalibo, a gateway for the popular tourist island of Boracay where demand has been growing rapidly. The performance of its Kalibo operation could be impacted by the upcoming completion of a runway extension and airport upgrade project at Caticlan, a smaller airport which is much closer to Boracay.
Cebu Pacific Air incurred a net loss of PHP152 million (USD3.5 million) in 4Q2013, marking its second consecutive quarter in the red. The Philippine carrier saw its full year profit drop by 86% to only PHP512 million (USD12 million), providing yet another indication of the challenging market conditions facing Southeast Asia’s low-cost carrier sector.
Profits at every publicly traded LCC in Southeast Asia were down in 4Q2013 and are likely to fall further in 2014 due to overcapacity and intensifying competition. But Cebu Pacific’s medium to long term outlook remains bright as it enjoy a leading position and first mover advantage in its home market
Cebu Pacific has a particularly strong and improving position in the Philippine domestic market. Of the five main domestic markets in Southeast Asia, only the Philippine market is now seeing some rationalisation of competition and capacity. The acquisition of Tigerair Philippines will boost Cebu’s market share at the same time as reducing competition – but there will be some short-term pain as Tigerair Philippines is expected to remain unprofitable for at least another year.
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.