Routes Asia kicked off in the Philippines demanding infrastructure improvement


Routes Asia kicked off in style yesterday with an engaging and thought-provoking Strategy Summit that debated some of the key topics impacting the aviation business across the region, including a debate on what Asia needs right now, enlightening presentations on the value of aviation in the region, how Asian travelers book travel, great insight on network connections and connections to networks, and what the future looks like for aviation partnerships.

The Strategy Summit preceded last night’s Welcome Reception at the SM Mall of Asia in Bay City, Pasay, Philippines. Speaking to Routesonline at the event, Katie Bland, Director of Routes for UBM EMEA said: “The Philippines has gained an influential position within the aviation industry by hosting Routes Asia 2016. The Asian market is growing and there is scope to improve the country’s international air connectivity with new services.”

Routes Asia has opened in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, with renewed calls for regulators and airports to address infrastructure issues in the region with senior executives of some of the region’s fastest-growing airlines highlighting it as one of the biggest issues still impacting growth and development in the region.

Speaking on the opening afternoon at the event’s Strategy Summit on March 6, 2016, in a panel session entitled ‘What Asia Needs Right Now Is…’, IATA Regional Vice-President Asia-Pacific and panel moderator Conrad Clifford said 100 million passengers were expected to enter into the Asia-Pacific market each year for the next 20 years. However, members of the panel warned this prediction could fail to materialise unless the region’s problems with infrastructure were quickly addressed.

Andrew Cowen, Chief Executive Officer, HK Express said: “Infrastructure is the biggest issue. There’s a mismatch in our opinion… in the time line for airports. What we are all seeing, understand and accept is the low-cost carriers in general are creating a lot of new demand that’s not really picked up in these bigger forecast models for future infrastructure. We really need to address that.”

Joy Caneba, Chief Executive Officer, AirAsia Philippines added that better infrastructure would also make it easier for airlines to operate more effectively, a strategy that is particularly important for budget operators which are seeking to minimise to develop as efficient an arrivals and departure process to keep costs to a minimum.

Alexander Lao, Vice President Commercial Planning, Cebu Pacific agreed the issue needed resolving but warned airports not to pass on new problems to the airlines. “We do want to see a lot of private investors in airports but we do stand against commissions and runway fees and it becoming more expensive to operate,” he said.

Lao added that airports also needed to consider capacity growth and the ability to deliver the required projects on time and said the future needs of the growing market could also be met by not simply focusing on the region’s primary airports.

“It is really critical for us to develop secondary airports,” he added, noting that this would also help airlines help keep ticketing prices down – a vital issue in a market known for its price sensitivity.

The panel’s sole airport representative, Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Philippines said one way airports could keep costs down is by looking at including more commercial options at the facilities, such as increasing the number of shops. “The airports need to work together to deliver projects and services that meet the clients’ requirements. They can’t be too expensive,” he said.

Today will mark the second day of the event and the start of the formal face-to-face meetings. With delegate numbers up more than 85 per cent over the past two years, it is worth remembering once again the important role that air services play across Asia and Australasia supporting both business and leisure demand across a widespread area.