Jakarta. Budget airline AirAsia inaugurated a direct flight route from Manila, the Philippines to Jakarta on Tuesday (09/01) in the hopes of alluring more businessmen to travel between the two busiest cities in Southeast Asia.
The Manila-Jakarta and Jakarta-Manila direct routes now operate once everyday, departing from Manila at 8 a.m. local time and arriving in Jakarta 11 a.m. local time.
During the inaugural flight, AirAsia claimed that its Airbus A320 plane was booked to capacity, carrying 137 passengers from Manila to Jakarta, while the return flight still had some empty seats.
"It took six years since the establishment of AirAsia Philippines to finally open this direct route," said Marianne Hontiveros, chairwoman of AirAsia Philippines, at a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Over the last six years, people from Jakarta, who use AirAsia, had to transit in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore first before they could arrive in Manila.
"At the time, we focused on growing our business first, but now we think this is the right time to open a direct flight to Jakarta," Marianne continued.
With the opening of the new route, the Indonesian government expects business ties between the two countries to strengthen.
"Indonesia welcomed 12.7 million foreign tourists last year and with this new connectivity with Manila, we expect to see more growth in tourism, trade and investment," said Judi Rifajantoro, the Tourism Ministry's special adviser for tourism infrastructure.
Marianne believes the market for air travel between Manila and Jakarta has a bright future.
"There are a lot of Filipino professionals here in Jakarta and many of them have demanded this direct flight. Our target on this route is the business market," she said.
Later this month, the airline will also open a new direct flight from Manila to Denpasar, Bali, according to several sources.
"Bali is for tourism, and we see it differently than we do with Jakarta. As for Jakarta, we target more young entrepreneurs and businessmen around the two cities," she said.
"Both Manila and Jakarta have a booming, emerging startup industry where there are many young dynamic people or millennials who can travel and work at the same time. We've identified that these people are the target for our Manila-Jakarta route," added Jansen Ngo, AirAsia Philippines marketing and commercial executive.
"We expect more than 80 percent load factor within a year, we'll see," Ngo said when asked about the airline's projection impact from opening the new route.