PHILIPPINES Air Asia, Inc. is hoping to swing to profit this year. — COMPANY HANDOUT

By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

PHILIPPINES AirAsia, Inc. is planning to mount flights to Guam, once it receives Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) approval for its application seeking air entitlements to the United States.

Ricardo “Ricky” P. Isla, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a text message on Monday the long-haul flight will boost the budget carrier’s existing routes to about 15 international destinations.

“Upon receipt of designation, AirAsia will be ready to apply for an operating permit to operate flights specifically to Guam,” he told BusinessWorld.

“With a fleet of 24 Airbus A320 aircraft, AirAsia is capable of launching the flights as soon as permits are ready,” he added.

The Philippine unit of the Malaysia-based airline filed an air traffic access application with the CAB last week, which will be discussed in a hearing on Sept. 10.

The AirAsia Group started its flights to United States in 2017, when its long-haul unit AirAsia X Bhd launched its maiden flight to Hawaii from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Osaka, Japan.

Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes, chief executive officer of the AirAsia Group, was quoted as saying last year that the company is keen on opening flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco from Japan by 2020.

“We are hopeful that the (CAB) will grant our petition to designate AirAsia as an official Philippine carrier to the USA,” Mr. Isla said, noting the local unit’s plan to join the group-wide effort of AirAsia to expand links to the US.

In the Philippines, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific both currently offer flights to Guam, but the latter will be suspending its operations by yearend as part of “optimization” efforts.

When Cebu Pacific — known for its cheaper fares, like Philippines AirAsia — launched its Manila-Guam route in 2016, competing airlines dropped fare prices to the destination by as much as 25%.

The international network of Philippines AirAsia currently include Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Incheon, Osaka, Canton, Kaohsiung, Shanghai, Kota Kinabalu, Shenzhen, Denpasar, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kunming and Taipei.

The company hopes to swing to profit this year from a net loss of P2.11 billion in 2018. It booked a profit of P424.5 million in the first quarter, up 12% year on year due to a 23% increase in its passenger volume to 1.97 million.

It is also targeting to conduct an initial public offering before the year ends.