Macau | Air Asia to connect city to 11 destinations by March, interest in biding for future local airline concession - CEO for HK and Macau

Low-cost carrier Air Asia has opened its new daily Macau-Cebu connection today, with the company's Hong Kong and Macau CEO, Celia Lao, stating that with a new connection to Kalibo to also start in March, the Malaysian airline will by then connect Macau to 11 destinations through 102 weekly flights, with the company also showing interest in biding for a future airline license after the current Air Macau's exclusive operating license expires in 2020

Macau (MNA) – The CEO for Hong Kong and Macau of low-cost Malaysian carrier Air Asia, Celia Lao, said on Friday that by March the company will have 102 weekly flights connecting Macau to 11 destinations.

Ms. Lao made the comments at the launch ceremony of the company’s new Macao-Cebu service at Macau International Airport (MIA).

This new daily service is the second direct route from Macau to the Philippines and the 10th international direct route from the city by Air Asia, with a Macau-Kalibo connection to become the 11th on March this year.

Questioned if Air Asia would be interested in biding for a local airline concession – with Air Macau’s exclusive license concession to expire in 2020 – Ms. Lao stated that “if there is market potential” the group’s CEO, Tony Fernandez, would “consider it”.

“It depends on how the Civil Aviation Authority of Macao SAR (AACM) will open up the market. We will wait and see,” Ms. Lao added.

The new Macau-Cebu connection will have daily flights departing from Cebu at 9:25 am and arriving Macau 12:15 pm, with a return flight setting of from MIA at 12:45 pm and arriving at the Filipino island at 3:25 pm.

According to Ms. Lao this new link will be convenient not just for locals or residents in the Pearl River Delta wanting travel to this tourist destination but also for residents in the island looking to travel to Macau.

“We believe [there will be demand] both destinations are full of attractions now. The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) have developed the city as a really nice destination. We are confident more Filipinos will come here, or even other tourists since we heard there is a lot or Koreans living in Cebu,” she added.

Speaking at the same event, the Philippines Consul General to Macau Lilybeth R. Deapera said the new seven days a week connection gives the local Filipino community more opportunities to return to the country without having to pass through Manila.

“It will also of course benefit those working in the tourism industry and other allied services [food and beverage and souvenirs],” she added.

Air Asia was said to consider Manila as its main hub in the Philippines, followed by Cebu and Kalibo, with the company looking to add flights that can connect these regional hubs to Macau, Hong Kong and its Greater bay Area neighbouring cities.

With Filipino low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific already providing direct flights Macau-Cebu, Ms. Lao considered there would be a “good competition” between the two airlines, since the “market size is big enough”.

“In the very beginning we might have some passenger load spread but I believe in the future with both schedules the market will grow as more people from Southeast Asia come to Macau and as we target 7 million people in the Pearl River Delta,” she added.

The company will also look to connect Macau with its other hubs in Southeast Asia, such as Philippines (Clark), and Malaysia (Penang), with Air Asia having recently opened a link to Kota Kinabalu.

“[The Kota Kinabalu connection] has been really good. We’re catching a really good timing with the Chinese new Year, with about 90 per cent [occupancy rate] average for all routes,” she added.

The Air Asia Hong Kong and Macau CEO indicated that the company increased flight frequency before the CNY holiday period, with the new offers to be maintained after this period.

“Manila we increased from seven weekly flights to 10. We also added more flights to Bangkok before CNY,” she added.