BUDGET carrier AirAsia Philippines welcomed Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s call to boost connectivity to Visayas and Mindanao through the provision of more slots to local carriers.

An airport slot is a permit issued by the airport administration to airlines to utilize takeoff and landing facilities at an airport.

Zubiri, at the recent Department of Transportation (DOTr) budget briefing, said equal distribution of unutilized slots should be given to airlines that can operate now to provide more flights for Filipinos.

He particularly mentioned AirAsia Philippines, which is now boosting its fleet with the backing of Capital A.

“AirAsia is buying more planes and their problem is that they cannot use the planes because they have no slots. I’m just lobbying for our passengers because we need more flights, particularly Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, and other destinations in the Philippines,” he stressed.

Cebu is getting a share of Capital A’s US$1 billion expansion in the Philippines.

In a past interview, Capital A president and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said his company is expanding its airline business in Cebu through AirAsia Philippines.

“Our main growth will be in Cebu. Our team is now working on putting plans together to grow flights to and from Cebu. We now have Japan, South Korea, and China. We will do more flights to Bangkok and Bali connecting to Cebu,” he said.

First officer Steve Dailisan, AirAsia Country head for communications and public affairs, said additional slots will allow AirAsia to flourish in the Visayas and Mindanao, especially since they also plan to grow their domestic market by 20 percent in 2024.

“Additional slots will also allow AirAsia to revive flights to Zamboanga, Dumaguete, General Santos City, and expand frequency in Cagayan de Oro which is also a gateway to Northern Mindanao. This, in turn, will give AirAsia the upper hand to continue to provide the best value airfares and best travel deals as we continue to democratize air travel for everyone,” Dailisan said in a statement.

Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said unused slots as a result of the reduction of flights during the pandemic were given to other airlines that were willing to operate during that time.

However, he said DOTr will evaluate the availability of slots with the Manila International Airport Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and “will give available slots to AirAsia.

As of September 2023, AirAsia Philippines flies 312 times weekly to 14 local destinations with an average load factor of 91 percent per flight. AirAsia, a recipient of the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline award, also plans to bring in A321neo and A330 aircraft next year to serve more travelers, especially overseas Filipino workers./ KOC