MALAYSIAN multinational low-cost airline AirAsia aims to expand its fleet of Airbus 321-211 Freighters to ten within the next 18 months, with plans to have some of these aircraft stationed in Manila.

On Wednesday, AirAsia’s logistics venture Teleport announced plans to increase the number of its freighter planes after unveiling its first A321F in Kuala Lumpur, the first black freighter in Southeast Asia.

“We are taking three this year, and we have a plan for 10. All ten will be acquired in the next 18 months,” Teleport Chief Executive Officer Pete Chareonwongsak told reporters.

Anthony Francis Fernandes, the chief executive officer of Capital A Berhad, the holding company for the travel and lifestyle group, said that the group sees significant growth for its logistics business in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is where we see Teleport having very big operations, although AirAsia Philippines is currently handling all of Teleport’s work,” he said.

“Some of the ten aircraft we are discussing will be invested in the Philippines,” he added.

“Our number one route, our volume in the whole region is in the Philippines,” said Mr. Chareonwongsak. “Davao to Manila — so, the Philippines is very, very important.”

The three A321F aircraft that the company plans to deploy this year will be leased for a duration of seven years and will be funded by Teleport and operated by AirAsia.

The new Airbus is expected to strengthen Teleport’s air logistics network in Southeast Asia by adding more skidded capacity to the existing passenger belly network.

The A321F has a maximum payload of 27 tons or 27,000 kilograms and can travel up to 2,200 nautical miles or have a five-hour range within the Asia Pacific region from the Kuala Lumpur hub.

“This addresses the growing demand for key emerging production and manufacturing hubs within the region, with the ability to transport goods to primary and secondary cities across Southeast Asia,” Teleport said.

In the first half of the year, AirAsia Philippines achieved an average on-time performance (OTP) of 81%, with the highest recorded on July 6 at 94%.

OTP is a metric used to measure an airline’s punctuality. An airline is considered on time if it arrives or departs within 15 minutes of the published schedule.

AirAsia Philippines Country Head for Communications and Public Affairs, Steve F. Dailisan, said, “Our day-to-day operations at AirAsia focus on safety, passenger comfort, and OTP, in that order, to ensure that we safely and efficiently fly our guests to their destinations.”

“We are not perfect, but we strive to do our best for our guests and their loved ones. We are also working closely with the government and industry partners to mitigate controllable circumstances that aim to improve the efficiency of airport operations,” he added.

The airline’s OTP was affected by inclement weather, lightning alerts, and bird strikes, which increased during the first six months.

In the first half of the year, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines reported a significant increase in bird strike incidents, with a total of 107 cases.

Meanwhile, the Manila International Airport Authority recorded 71 and 84 Lightning Yellow and Red Alerts in the months of May and June.

“This tripled the number of incidents, totaling 166 for the first half of this year, compared to the overall 60 occurrences in 2022,” AirAsia said. — Justine Irish D. Tabile