Boutique airline optimistic on growth


By Imee Charlee C. Delavin | BusinessWorld Online

AIR JUAN is optimistic about the boutique airline’s growth this year, citing continued demand for its services and additional routes.

“Our projection is uptrend for Air Juan this year. New routes and the growing sophistication of local travelers will be driving that growth,” Air Juan Chief Marketing Officer Tina Di Cicco said in a recent interview.

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. It will also offer direct flights to Baler.

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

This year, the boutique airline is looking to service “a thousand or more passengers” as it works on raising awareness for its operations and increased frequency on some routes based on current demand.

“I think for now I can say that there is really demand, and our outlook is driven by that demand so we’re very optimistic,” Ms. Di Cicco added.

Air Juan’s niche is flying to destinations not serviced by major airlines. In particular, it is looking for destinations that have a 30-minute to 1-hour radius from Manila.

“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 said.

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.

Ms. Di Cicco noted the major challenge for the airline this year is a possible increase in oil prices which could drive up its fares and dampen appetite for travel.

“We are lucky that these days, oil prices are reasonably priced and that helps a lot in cutting down the cost. To be able to prepare on the rise in prices of oil over time will be a major challenge,” she added.

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.

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