LOCAL boutique carrier Royal Air Philippines is acquiring three more aircraft this year to begin its international commercial operations out of Clark, Pampanga.
Ed Novillas, chief executive officer of Royal Air Philippines, said the airline is in the process of acquiring an Airbus A319 by the end of this month and another one in June.
The airline eyes to connect Clark to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
“We hope to operate by July. It’s an aircraft similar to other airlines but with only a 150-seat capacity,” said Novillas, at the sidelines of Royal Air’s Cebu-Manila direct flight launch Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
“We are also eyeing another aircraft by October. The direction is to add two more aircraft every year,” he added.
Royal Air kicked off the month of May by expanding its commercial operations in Cebu, the airline’s second hub after Clark.
It launched on Tuesday a daily direct flight from Cebu to Manila, which departs Cebu at 11:45 p.m. and arrives in Manila at 1:15 a.m. (the next day).
Royal Air leaves Manila at 4:35 a.m. and arrives in Cebu at 6:05 a.m.
The airline also launched four other direct routes linking Cebu to Davao, Puerto Princesa, Caticlan (Boracay) and Cagayan de Oro starting May 20. It will utilize a 97-seater Avro RJ100 aircraft to serve these destinations.
Connection to China
“Royal Air is serious in expanding its market reach across the southern region; it is one of the many ways we can make the journey pleasant for our customers,” said Novillas.
He added that Royal Air’s entry to Cebu is driven by the island’s robust tourism arrivals—at more than eight million last year—and the presence of an international gateway that connects the Visayas-Mindanao area to countries abroad.
“With more aircraft coming in later in the year, we are ready to open additional routes, which we will launch from our Cebu hub,” he said.
Novillas added that they plan to connect Cebu to secondary cities of China through charter flights by the third quarter this year.
“This is a big opportunity for us, considering that the airline is backed by travel agents who are familiar with the Chinese market,” he said.
“We can do commercial operations by day, and at night, do charter flights, particularly for China,” he added.
Seventy percent of Royal Air’s passengers are millennials, particularly those who prefer the do-it-yourself type of travel.
“The launch of Royal Air Philippines is timely as we are now seeing double-digit growth in traffic at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). Most tourist areas in Visayas and Mindanao are only 25 to 30 minutes flying time from MCIA and we will continue to push for making Cebu a hub for both domestic and international flights,” said Louie Ferrer, president of GMR- Megawide Cebu Airport Corp.
MCIA passenger traffic
For the first quarter of 2019, domestic traffic at MCIA jumped 13 percent or two million passengers while international traffic grew almost 10 percent or around one million passengers year-on-year.
With the addition of Royal Air, MCIA now has a total of seven Philippine-based airline partners and 18 foreign airline partners. It is connected to 29 domestic destinations and 22 international destinations.
Royal Air was established in 2002 mounting charter flights. The airline started its commercial flights in 2017, when a group of three travel agencies invested in the company.
They brought in three 97-seater British Aerospace AVRO 146 RJ-100 series, which comprise the company’s current fleet.
Amid the presence of local airline giants, Novillas said they aren’t threatened.
“We are not competing against them. They have a different market to serve. What we want is to change the game in terms of people. We will not be focusing on the safety aspect alone but will make our crew as travel ambassadors,” he said. “If we can’t be the first, then we can be different. If not, we can be better,” he added.
In terms of pricing, Novillas said they can compete head-on with the pricing scheme of other airlines. He said that aside from the fixed rate, they also offer weekly promo rates for as low as P20.
“Our being a Clark locator allows us to enjoy certain privileges that we can give out to passengers. This allows us to translate a fairly good rate,” said Novillas.
Air fares of Royal Air are inclusive of 10-kilogram allowance for baggage. Passengers also get to enjoy free snacks.