AirAsia PHL says CIAC agrees to waive airport fees

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By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo

CLARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Corp. (CIAC) has granted the request of AirAsia Philippines, Inc. to waive the payment of airport fees for five years, a top official of the budget carrier said.

“For Clark, airport, landing, navigational fees, they (CIAC) have given it,” Philippines AirAsia, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dexter M. Comendador told reporters last week on the sidelines of the launch of new AirAsia flights from Manila to Bali, Jakarta, and Ho Chi Minh.

Sought for confirmation, CIAC President and CEO Alexander Cauguiran said CIAC has provided incentives to AirAsia Philippines, such as a waiver on landing and takeoff fees and other charges starting March. However, he clarified that navigational fees are not included.

“To help ensure its sustainable operations in Clark, CIAC extended various incentives to Philippines AirAsia, such as 100% discount on landing and takeoff fees and other airport fees and charges. These, however, do not include navigational fees that are under the mandate of CAAP [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines],” Mr. Cauguiran told BusinessWorld in a mobile text message.

Other airlines have been offered and have availed of the same incentives, Mr. Cauguiran said. “Similar incentives are also extended to other airlines in order to attract them to operate in Clark, not only for the sake of fully developing Clark but more importantly, to help decongest NAIA [Ninoy Aquino International Airport].”

AirAsia’s Mr. Comendador is hopeful travelers from the provinces north of Metro Manila as well as Quezon City will now be encouraged to travel via Clark International Airport.

The waiver on some airport fees is expected to boost passenger traffic for AirAsia in Clark. The budget carrier is set to return to Clark International Airport by January 2018.

AirAsia started its Philippine operations in Clark in 2012 but moved its hub to NAIA Terminal 4 a year later in line with reduced operations. It has since resumed domestic flights from Clark to Davao and Kalibo, but Manila remains its main hub.

The local unit of the AirAsia Group is also not worried of other airlines being given the same incentives.

“The market is so huge, we can share the benefits… What’s important is we stir up traffic,” Mr. Comendador told reporters.

AirAsia Philippines had earlier asked the government to scrap airport fees, as well as travel tax imposed on departing travelers, as a way to spur outbound traffic.

The budget carrier submitted a proposal last month to the departments of finance, tourism, trade and industry, and transportation, requesting the removal of the travel tax collected by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), as well as airport fees.

Mr. Comendador said Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo is amenable to the proposal. TIEZA is under the Department of Tourism.

However, scrapping the travel tax would require legislative action, as Republic Act No. 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009 provides for the collection of travel tax, which is used to fund some programs of TIEZA, the Commission on Higher Education, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The local unit of Malaysia’s AirAsia Group is set to fly daily to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam on Nov. 19, and the Indonesian cities of Bali and Jakarta starting Jan. 19 and Jan. 9, respectively. It launched direct flights from Manila to Iloilo earlier this month.