By Cliff Harvey C. Venzon
Toulose, France -- The Philippines is considered a growth market for Airbus S.A.S, with more than a hundred airplanes that have yet to be delivered "in the coming years," officials from the European aircraft maker said.
"The Philippines, definitely, is among the strong growth countries in the region," Joost van der Heijden, Airbus head of airline marketing for Asia, told BusinessWorld in an interview on Thursday, during a dinner for Cebu Pacific's new A330-300 aircraft.
"Definitely, the orders that have been placed by the Philippine carriers reflect that potential," Mr. Heijden added. "The continued strong growth in the Philippines is in line with other areas in Asia."
Sean Lee, Airbus communications director for Asia, said Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific alone have so far placed orders of 170 aircraft "since Airbus started selling aircraft in the Philippines."
"Of these, 111 have yet to be delivered," Mr. Lee said on the sidelines of a media tour for Manila-based reporters at the Airbus headquarters on Wednesday.
Mr. Lee said delivery of these aircraft "will be in the coming years." He declined to be more specific.
PAL in September last year placed an order for 64 aircraft -- 44 A320s and 20 A330-300s -- in a deal worth $9.5 billion.
PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang early this year said 16 aircraft -- eight each for A320s and A330s -- will be delivered in the fourth quarter, while the remaining will arrive in the next five years.
For its part, Cebu Pacific, according to Mr. Lee, has a pending delivery of 47 aircraft. Details of the orders were not immediately available.
The Asia Pacific market comprised 24% of total Airbus deliveries last year, according to the company.
"The Asia Pacific market is a very strong market with very strong potential. It is today the biggest aviation market in the world," Mr. Heijden said. "And we see its lead extending over US and Europe further."
Data from the International Air Transport Association showed that in February, international passenger traffic of Asia Pacific carriers grew by 4.5% from the same month last year. This is higher than US and Europe's 0.3 and 0.8% growth, respectively.
In the Philippines, Mr. Heijden said growth will be driven by the improving economy and Filipinos' close family ties.
"A big factor is the strong economic growth and strong traffic base in terms of visiting friends and relatives," he said.
The Philippine economy grew by 7.8% in the first quarter, higher than 6.5% in the same period last year, and above the 6-7% government target for this year.