MANILA, PHILIPPINES — AirSWIFT, a Manila-based regional airline, plans to expand its fleet with an additional ATR 72-600 aircraft later this year. This strategic move aims to increase the airline's seating capacity by 30% and enable the launch of new routes, ch-aviation reports.

In a conversation with the Filipino outlet, Business Mirror, AirSWIFT's CEO, Alfonso Reyes, expressed optimism about the travel demand in 2023, stating, "we are very bullish on being able to finally put the difficult years of the pandemic behind us."

The Ayala Group, a Filipino conglomerate, owns the airline, which anticipates the delivery of the brand-new Avions de Transport Régional turboprop by December. Nordic Aviation Capital will lease the aircraft to AirSWIFT, joining the airline's current fleet of two ATR 72-600s and two ATR 42-600s.

According to Reyes, the addition of this new aircraft, coupled with maximizing the usage of the existing fleet, will enable the airline to augment its weekly seating capacity by 30% by the year's end. This increase aims to meet the robust demand for travel. Reyes also projects that the average passenger load will rise to 82% by December, surpassing the pre-pandemic average of 73%.

"Leisure travel demand seems to be much stronger now compared with 2019. We do not think this is necessarily just revenge travel but possibly shifting travel patterns, as the continuation of hybrid 'work-from-anywhere' models allow for more long weekends and more travellers being able to mix work with leisure travel," he explained.

Before rebranding in 2015, AirSWIFT was known as ITI - Island Transvoyager. It prides itself on being a "boutique" airline and offers scheduled flights that connect destinations with the Ayala Group's resort complexes to major Filipino cities. The airline's routes include the popular tourist region of El Nido on Palawan Island with Manila Ninoy Aquino International, Busuanga, Caticlan, Cebu, Clark, and Panglao. Direct flights from Manila Ninoy Aquino to Busuanga, Sicogon, and Tablas are also offered.

The carrier will start operating routes between El Nido and Sicogon, and Surigao later this year. Additionally, all pre-pandemic routes have now resumed operations. Reyes, however, points out that obtaining additional slots at Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport is a growth hurdle. He also mentions the challenges posed by high inflation and fuel costs, especially while servicing a price-sensitive leisure market that anticipates low fares.