By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
AIR Juan Aviation Inc. aims to boost local tourism businesses with the expansion of its services, which now include scheduled operations to key destinations in the country.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, Jose Rafael Ledesma, president of Air Juan, said the airline, which was set up in 2012 as a charter service, now offers scheduled daily flights to several resorts in Busuanga (Coron), Palawan; twice a week to Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro; six times a week to Boracay, Aklan; and daily to Subic, Zambales, using its nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan Amphibians (seaplane).
“We are the only biggest and commercial seaplane operator here in the Philippines,” he stressed, allowing passengers the convenience of checking in an uncongested terminal and delivering them “door-to-door,” meaning the seaplane takes off from the carrier’s dock at the CCP Complex and lands in the waters by the resorts.
“We essentially have our own airport in that respect. And that already on its own provides great time savings; you don’t have to be there two hours before, you don’t need to line up, queue and what not,” he added.
Ledesma is confident that the carrier would post higher profit margins in 2017, enhanced by its scheduled services, which are projected to account for about 30 percent of its revenues next year.
Air Juan has also been flying scheduled services connecting Coron to Boracay, Coron to Puerto Princesa, and Cuyo, also in Palawan, to Puerto Princesa, using landplanes, the Cessna Grand Caravan Ex. The airline’s fleet also includes two Bell 407GX helicopters, aside from the four seaplanes, two landplanes and two jets—a Cessna Citation and Cessna Sovereign.
“Over the past two years when we started operating our seaplanes, the primary activities were to really identify the areas that would be best served by the seaplanes,” Ledesma explained the reason for offering scheduled seaplane services. “And since then, we’ve been flying those destinations almost on a regular basis, and it’s only come to this point when we’ve really identified which areas can be considered scheduled due to the demand and the destination itself. And so we found we’re on the cusp of the peak to the ultrapeak season, it would be a great time to offer scheduled services.”
The airline also helps increase the number of businesses in the tourism sector or strengthen existing tourism business with its ability to link the many islands in the country. Ledesma cites the luxury island resort of Ugen island off Sorsogon, whose owners would not have pursued its development if there were no seaplanes that would make it accessible to its guests.
“Air Juan, through its services, not only provides memorable leisure experiences to our travelers but it also provides opportunities for new businesses to open up in the tourism space, thrive in those businesses, and also for the existing business owners in the tourism space to grow their business because we provide them accessibility where there was very little accessibility in the past,” he underscored. “With that in mind, we believe the future of Air Juan and tourism in the Philippines has endless potential now.”
As the seaplane service just started, passenger load factors are still low, but the company official expressed confidence that this would soon pick up, as the usual holiday/vacation season has already started with peak and super peak seasons carrying over until May next year.
Also, the carrier has tied up with 10 resorts, and now offers vacation packages that would cater to most types of tourists. “The response has been encouraging [both from passengers and resorts]…. We not only sell seats on the planes, but we also sell rooms. We sell vacations,” Ledesma said. “We are now in the process of launching various tieups with about 10 resorts,” he added, which include Busuanga Bay Lodge, El Rio y Mar, Two Seasons Coron and Huma Island, all in Palawan.
Other resorts are in Boracay, which include The Lind, Discovery Shores, Shangri-La Resort, Two Seasons Boracay and Movenpick; Buri Resort and Spa and Infinity Resort in Puerto Galera; and Lighthouse Marina Resort in Subic.
The carrier hopes to hit as many markets as it can, offering affordable (e.g., P4,500 one way, Manila-Puerto Galera) to upscale price points (e.g., P12,000 one-way, Manila-Boracay). Its vacation package, dubbed “Flight and Stay,” range from P25,500 per person (three days/two nights, Sunday to Tuesday) to P33,500 (three days/two nights, Friday to Sunday), which includes airfare and accommodations at Busuanga Bay Lodge, for instance.
“We feel that is the way to go for us is to really establish packages with the resorts so for the customer, their not having to look at the flight, then ‘I have to book my resort.’ The types of resorts we’re offering will range from the high-end and medium-priced to affordable resorts. What’s key for us here is to provide potential passengers as many options and destinations to go to, so they will, in the course of looking at those destinations, might be good to try the seaplane,” he said.