Philippines AirAsia to suspend operations at Clark

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Philippines AirAsia (PAA) will temporarily suspend all services from Clark International airport as it moves its operations to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International airport (NAIA), strengthening its collaboration with Zest Air.

The carrier is expected to make an announcement later today, providing details on when the suspension will take effect, and how its route network will change.

AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes announced the move through a Tweet this morning, saying "AirAsia Philippines is moving to Manila. More choice more value".

He adds: "[Clark] routes will be temporarily suspended. We will be going back to [Clark]."

PAA currently operates four routes out of Clark to Davao, Kalibo, Taipei and Hong Kong. It has, however, been reducing frequencies on some routes since June and ended its daily Clarke-Kuala Lumpur service.

Earlier this year, the low-cost carrier said that it was taking a 49% stake in Zest and 100% of Asiawide Airways, which owns Zest's aircraft. In turn, Zest's majority shareholder Alfredo Yao will take an unspecified stake in PAA.

A spokeswoman from PAA says one of its Airbus A320s has already been wet leased to Zest, and is being used at NAIA, while its other aircraft is still based at Clark.

In its annual report released in May, AirAsia said it is keen to establish a presence in metro Manila through its strategic alliance with Zest. PAA's move out of Clark could be an attempt to cut losses and also leverage Zest's attractive slots at NAIA.

Zest is expected to undergo a rebranding this month that would adopt the AirAsia name into its brand, but it must first get the necessary regulatory approvals. The two carriers are still expected to operate separately.

Zest was grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on 16 August for three days because of safety concerns including lapses in maintenance.