PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan - In today's competitive airline industry, travellers are not just content with getting the cheapest fares but are also demanding good and efficient service. AirAsia, the newest budget carrier in the Philippines, is promising to offer not just low fares but premium-quality service for its guests.
Maan Hontiveros, chief executive officer of AirAsia Inc. (Philippines), said the airline is not out to grab market share from existing budget carriers in the country, but to give the best value for money for travelers.
"We will distinguish ourselves with the kind of service we give, our staff and personnel and how committted they are and the quality of services they will give. The riding public is very discriminating. In the end, they're going to be able to compare - which airline offers them the best value, and it's good for the people to have a choice," she told ABS-CBNnews.com.
Philippines' AirAsia is a unit of Malaysia's AirAsia Group, the region's largest low-fare, no-frills airline, which has won the "World's Best Low-Cost Airline" award for 3 straight years at the 2011 World Airline Awards.
On board AirAsia's first flight to Puerto Princesa last Friday, Hontiveros touted the airline's brand-new A320 plane. She also highlighted the plane's sleek black leather seats, good-looking cabin crew, experienced pilots and delicious hot meals, such as chicken adobo with rice.
Hontiveros is particularly proud of the airline's "all-in" promo fares, which tell consumers upfront exactly how much they will pay. This is in contrast to other budget carriers such as Cebu Pacific that advertise P1 fares, but consumers would still have to pay taxes and additional fees.
"We talked about it for a long time with the marketing team. Marketing and sales people always say, 'You have to appear the cheapest, but if you put in P275, on top of the zero fare, baka sabihin nila we're more expensive.' I told them, it's actually better to be honest, to be totall upfront and no surprises. Because pretty soon people will know it anyway," Hontiveros said.
For instance, AirAsia held a P275 "all-in" fare for its flights to Puerto Princesa. This is essentially a "zero fare", with the P275 representing the fuel surcharge, processing fee and government-mandated fees such as aviation security fee and value-added tax.
Hontiveros said AirAsia hopes to always offer the lowest fares for consumers. She advised travelers to book in advance and on their website.
"We want to always be lower than the competition, to offer as many low fares as possible. We just have to get the public more used to planning their trips earlier, booking on the web," she said.
The airline offers a 50% discount if you book baggage allowance on the website, and 30% discount if you pre-order hot meals.
"We try to give back to our guests whatever benefits their early booking does for us because if they pre-book their meals, we'll know how much meals we will load on the aircraft, so we can avoid wastage. So they save us money and we give it back to them, try to make it more affordable for them," Hontiveros said.
Getting ready for international flights
Philippines' AirAsia only started flying last March 27, and currently has 3 routes, Clark-Puerto Princesa, Clark-Kalibo and Clark-Davao.
Hontiveros noted the Clark-Kalibo route, which brings passengers closer to the world-famous Boracay island, is the most popular so far.
The airline is also planning to start international flights, as soon as it can get government approval.
"We're looking at Hong Kong. We're looking at a point in China, but we are still debating which city in China. There's also the possibility of Macau, and Bangkok and maybe a second Kuala Lumpur. Kasi the flights (from Kuala Lumpur) are full na," Hontiveros said.