New ZestAir management vows improved services

Posted at 08/05/2013 10:38 AM | Updated as of 08/05/2013 10:38 AM

MANILA - Low cost carrier Zest Airways Inc., jointly owned by Ambassador Alfredo Yao and AirAsia Inc. (Philippines), has undertaken a change in leadership and is in the middle of adjusting to the new owners resulting to delays and cancellations of certain flights.

Newly elected ZestAir chairman Michael Romero told the STAR that the budget airline is in the process of changing and introducing a lot of international systems and procedures including that of the AirAsia Group.

Romero, who is vice chairman of AirAsia Philippines, was elected chairman of ZestAir replacing former chairman Ambassador Donald Dee who voluntarily stepped down.

Romero said the fleet of ZestAir composed of 10 Airbus A320 is now being maintained with AirAsia’s International engineering standards.

“This phasing or changes in engineering policies has caused quite a few delays but this is just temporary as this is part of the integration stage and would probably take just a few weeks before ZestAir could operate on a 100 percent efficiency ratio and likewise zero delays at budgeted pricing,” he explained.

Last May 10, AirAsia Philippines, where low cost carrier giant AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia has a 40 percent stake, completed the acquisition of an 85 percent economic interest and 49 percent voting rights in ZestAir as well as a 100 percent interest in Yao’s Asiawide Airways Inc.

In exchange, Yao’s ZestAir got $16 million as well as 13 percent interest in Philippines’ AirAsia that is currently based at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

ZestAir is controlled by Yao through AMCY Holdings while AirAsia Group through chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, has a 40 percent interest in Philippines’ AirAsia with Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco Jr., Michael Romero and Marianne Hontiveros owning 20 percent each.

Philippines’ AirAsia and ZestAir entered into a strategic alliance agreement last March 11. Under the partnership, Philippines’ AirAsia would invest in ZestAir by acquiring a 49 percent stake in Zest Airways and 100 percent in Asiawide Airways.

The proposed investment in ZestAir would complement the strategies for future growth of Philippines AirAsia which operates out of Clark while ZestAir operates at the congested NAIA.

Romero said ZestAir is now cooperating with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) after it was placed under “heightened surveillance” due to several flight cancellations due to “aircraft situation.”

According to him, ZestAir engineering and maintenance team are working closely with CAAP inspectors to assure the public that ZestAir is safe and airworthy.

“Our management fully supports the requirements of the engineering department to make sure that our aircraft are properly maintained and safe for public transport,” he said.

John Andrews, deputy director general of CAAP, announced last Friday that aviation officials are closely watching the operations of

Zest Air due to flight cancellations caused by mechanical problems over the past few weeks.

ZestAir cancelled eight flights last Thursday and six more flights last Friday due to “aircraft situation.” In July, Zest Air cancelled a total of 33 flights also due to “aircraft situation.”

ZestAir serves nine domestic destinations and five international routes via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as well as hubs in Kalibo and Cebu. It flies to Shanghai, Jinjiang, Incheon, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur as well as Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, and Tagbilaran.