By Denise A. Valdez

YOUNG homegrown carrier Royal Air Philippines is expanding the number of its commercial flights with routes linking Cebu to Manila, Davao, Puerto Princesa, Cagayan and Caticlan.

By the end of the month, it expects to welcome an Airbus A319, which it plans deploy for flights to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“We expect the aircraft to be here by end of the month, and work out a few certifications from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines so we can use it by July. We’re generally looking at Clark, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore,” Royal Air Philippines Chief Executive Officer Eduardo C. Novillas said in a press launch Friday.

“We are looking at having three Airbus aircraft this year, and two for the succeeding year, and two every other year. That’s the plan. Hopefully by six years, we have 10 Airbus aircraft that we plan to operate within the market,” he added.

Royal Air started commercial flights in 2017, when a group of three travel agencies invested in the company, and brought in three 97-seater British Aerospace AVRO 146 RJ-100 series, which comprise the company’s current fleet.

Aside from the new routes out of Cebu, Royal Air operates daily commercial flights from Clark to Caticlan and Puerto Princesa.

“As a locator status in Clark, we enjoy the privilege in Clark, which means we are basically tax-free. Our importations for aircraft parts, aircraft equipment are tax free. That’s why if you’re going to ask, ‘Is your rate competitive?’ I can only say yes, because we translated those incentives to the fares so we can go with the lower fare,” Mr. Novillas said about the affordability of Royal Air fares.

The Royal Air website shows a roundtrip ticket from Clark to Caticlan next month could cost as low as P3,922, inclusive of a free 10 kilogram allowance for baggage. Mr. Novillas said they also offer free snacks and bottled water inside the plane.

“The challenge is we have to let people know who we are, what do we do, and how we can serve them. We are not a legacy airline… We are also not a low-cost carrier… What we can do is we call it a ‘boutique’ type of airline,” Mr. Novillas said.

“We just give a cupcake and a bottled water for free. That’s the basic thing that we have. We also give 10 kilos baggage allowance for free. That’s the branding that we want right now,” he added.

Royal Air also offers free in-flight entertainment through its partner provider, Singapore-based Sapphire.

The bulk or 70% of the company’s revenues come from charter flights.

“As a start-up company, I think more or less it’s going to be the charter that will sustain us. 70% would come from the charter,” he said.

The company currently offers charter flights from Lal-lo to Macau via Tuguegarao, mostly catering to Chinese tourists. It also used to offer charter operations to Kalibo from Taipei and other secondary cities in China.

“We are a product of travel agencies who are very familiar with the China market in terms of charters. That’s the main goal,” Mr. Novillas said.

“The general concept is that we wanted to do charters in the evening, because my experience also from Tigerair Philippines, we do a lot of charters in China. These are mostly Chinese nationals who wanted to go to Boracay. We need a lot of that, so that’s the market,” he added.

The Royal Air chief said the company aims to capture more of the Chinese tourists who are flying out of secondary cities, but are very much attracted to the Philippine beaches.

In the future, Royal Air is also setting sights on flying commercially to Tagbilaran, San Vicente, Lal-lo and Macau.

“We have a (Civil Aeronautics Board)-approved CPCN (Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity) that’s good for five years. So we can operate domestic and international, scheduled and non-scheduled flights. That’s good until 2023,” Mr. Novillas said.