By Denise A. Valdez
“The Southeast Asia market is a big Chinese tourist market. The Chinese tourism market is changing slightly. It used to be tour groups going together, people going everywhere. That was typical. You had to bring them from China, bring them to the hub, then to the major destination. The younger generation… are starting to be able to want to go to off-the-beaten-tracks areas,” he said during a media briefing in Singapore late last month.
“If you take an ATR 72 (an approximately 70-seater aircraft) today, you’re going to have a third of the aircraft full. That will not make sense. Now it’s up to the airline to decide whether there’s a potential for having more passengers once there is an airline connection or not,” he said.
“All the other (original equipment manufacturers) have discontinued manufacturing 50-seater, because there was a trend in the last few years for more seats, bigger aircraft, and ATR kept on flying and producing the ATR 42. We find ourselves in a very sweet spot now, where everybody’s starting to go back to this kind platform, and we have the aircraft available,” he said.
“There are still markets where we are not present. I’m talking about India, I’m talking about China. We will make a decision in due course whether we need to be present in those countries and from when,” Christian Commissaire, director of the ATR Training Center in Singapore, said.
ATR currently has training centers in Toulouse, Paris, Miami, Johannesburg and Singapore, where they train around 20% to 25% of the ATR pilots around the globe.
A July air passenger market report released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed the growth of international passenger traffic from the Asia Pacific is the fastest and most stable internationally.
“While year-on-year growth fell to 7.5% in July, from 9.6% in June, the bigger picture is that the upward trend in passenger traffic remains strong, supported by a combination of robust regional economic growth and ongoing increases in the number of options for travellers,” it said.
Also in July, Cebu Pacific President Lance Y. Gokongwei said Chinese travelers are increasingly interested in visiting the Philippines, prompting the carrier to consider adding new flights to secondary cities in China.
At present, Cebu Pacific and AirSWIFT are the only airlines in the Philippines that source their aircraft from ATR. Of the two, only Cebu Pacific operates a wide range of flights as AirSWIFT remains a boutique airline.