Boutique airline plans to offer direct flights to Baler in March


By Imee Charlee C. Delavin

BOUTIQUE AIRLINE Air Juan is looking to offer direct flights to Baler by next month as it anticipates an influx of tourists to the surfing spot this summer.

The airline, which operates a fleet of nine-seater land and seaplanes, currently offers direct daily service from Manila to the country’s top tourist destinations such as Boracay, Coron, Puerto Galera, Balesin, Marinduque, Puerto Princesa, Mamburao and Subic.

“We’re looking at Baler next. We’re looking for destinations that have a 30-minute to 1-hour radius from Manila so destinations that are popular in terms of business, tourism, we’ll look at that,” Air Juan Chief Marketing Officer Tina Di Cicco said in a recent interview.

Ms. Di Cicco said the airline mounted test flights to Baler late last year. “But we didn’t market it yet. By March, we will already start offering,” she added.

Taking off from its dock at the Manila Harbour, Air Juan passengers can skip the long queues and waiting time at the airport since they only to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled takeoff.

It takes just 30 minutes to go to Puerto Galera and 20 minutes to Subic flights.

Air Juan has four C208B seaplanes, two C208B landlines and two Bell 429 helicopters, making it one of the largest seaplane operators in Southeast Asia.

Air Juan ferried more than 6,000 passengers last year, adding more than a thousand to the 5,000 passengers it carried in 2015.

The airline is projecting and “uptrend” growth this year, given its planned new routes and increased frequency in some of its existing destinations, “depending on the demand,” Ms. Di Cicco said.

Founded in 2012, Air Juan also offers private charter flights to most island destinations in the country. Catering to the “mid-to-high” market, its fares range from P4,500 to P14,000 per person per way depending on the destination.

“We’re a small airline. We cannot compete with the big players. We’re only nine-seater, we’ll gonna get swallowed quickly if we go the routes that they’re flying. So the first that we look at is access, what is the level of difficulty to go to the destination -- and if nobody is flying there so when it’s unserved and underserved, then we will go there, we mainly service unchartered destinations,” the Air Juan executive added.

Bulk of its passengers remain to be locals, but the boutique airline is looking to attract more foreign tourists eventually.