AirAsia Zest, formally Zest Air, was a LCC based in Manila. With hubs at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Kalibo International Airport and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, AirAsia Zest used a fleet of narrow-body A320 aircraft to serve a network of domestic and regional destinations within the Philippines and Asia. AirAsia Philippines owned a 49% stake in the carrier, whilst the remaining 51% stake was owned by Ambassador Alfred Yao. On 10-May-2013, AirAsia Group announced plans to integrate Philippines AirAsia into Zest in order to maximise fleet utilisation between both carriers and slot allocations from Manila. The two carriers previously operated under separate Air Operator's Certificates until Sep-2015. During the period, AirAsia Zest was considered an affiliate airline of AirAsia Philippines. In Dec-2015, Philippines AirAsia and AirAsia Zest successfully merged into a single entity and operate under a single AOC.
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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The Philippines domestic market has seen a surge in domestic capacity in 2H2015, pressuring yields and profitability. More domestic capacity increases are likely in 2016, driven by the up-gauging of flights at Manila and new point to point flights from Cebu and other secondary cities.
The Philippines domestic market did not experience any growth in 2013 and 2014. Consolidation and a more rational approach to capacity led to a significant improvement in market conditions in the Philippines.
The recent capacity increases should be absorbable over time given the lack of growth in 2013 and 2014. But at least for the short to medium term there will be pressure on yields as competition intensifies between the three remaining domestic players.
Cebu Pacific, PAL, AirAsia plan Boracay expansion. Will new runway at Caticlan lead to overcapacity?
Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Philippines AirAsia are planning to pursue rapid expansion at Caticlan Airport in 2015 following the completion of a highly anticipated runway extension project. Caticlan is the closest airport to the popular Philippine resort island of Boracay but has seen limited growth over the years as it could only handle regional aircraft.
Caticlan is expected to see the launch of international flights from all three of the main airline groups in the Philippines as well as from some foreign carriers. Several of these flights will be transferred from Kalibo, an airport about 70km from Boracay that has seen rapid growth due to the constraints at Caticlan, which is only a 10min ferry trip from Boracay.
Traffic on Caticlan-Manila is also expected to grow as Cebu Pacific and PAL upgrade flights from turboprops to A320s and as AirAsia enters the market. Caticlan-Manila is already the 10th largest domestic route in the Philippines while Kalibo-Manila, which will almost certainly see a decline in traffic, is now the fourth largest.
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.