By Denise A. Valdez
SINGAPORE — Turboprop manufacturer ATR is expecting to benefit from the Philippine government’s multi-airport program as it designs aircraft that could land in less developed, short-runway airports.
ATR Sales Director Laurent Janitza told BusinessWorld on Monday on the sidelines of a media briefing at their headquarters here that the company is anticipating a positive impact from the Philippine government’s plans.
“This is where the ATR aircraft can benefit, from this government policy. If you have an airport too constrained, then someone who’s going from the north of the Philippines wants to go to the south, two remote towns, they have to go through Manila. Eventually now, because the government is going to help develop those airports, an ATR is gonna be able to go from town A direct to town C, without going through Manila,” Mr. Janitza said. With the planned new airports, airlines can service new routes to remote areas. However, he noted the flights may initially have thin passenger traffic, making it unprofitable for airlines to use their existing large-capacity fleet to test new routes.
“(With ATR), the risk of the airline is less, so they are less reticent, or they are more inclined to start a new route, knowing that the cost of running that airplane is going to be low enough. So they’re not going to invest too much money and take a risk if actually the business doesn’t work,” Mr. Janitza said.“We’ve been talking about this for a long, long time, and I would say now it starts to stick — the airlines are understanding that they can use a turboprop aircraft like the ATR to do this,” he added.
The France-based turboprop manufacturer currently has a 30% of the market share for 50- to 90-seater aircraft and 75% of the market share for turboprop aircraft. ATR said the Asia Pacific region has driven 40% of its sales since 2010.
In the Philippines, Cebu Pacific is the company’s commercial airline client for the ATR 72-500.
The government is currently pushing for a multi-airport strategy to ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It is also endorsing the development of regional airports across the country, while Clark International Airport in Pampanga is being expanded. Two airport projects near Manila are also in the pipeline — San Miguel Corp.’s unsolicited proposal to build a P735-billion Bulacan International Airport, and the Cavite government’s P552.018-billion Sangley International Airport.
In a statement last week, the DoTr said it is “prioritizing” the Bulacan and Sangley airports to “spread development across Luzon.”
Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade also noted existing provincial airports need to be improved by “extending and expanding runways, and building new passenger terminal buildings.”
The government is expected to decide on the unsolicited proposals for three regional airports by the third quarter. These are from Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. (CLC) for the Davao airport, Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. for the Bohol airport, and Mega7 Construction Corp. for the Kalibo airport.