AirAsia Philippines (PQ, Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l) has secured Filipino senate approval in its bid to acquire a majority 51% shareholding in Zest Airways, Inc. t/a AirAsia Zest (Z2, Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l). Joy Caneba, AirAsia Zest's CEO, told the local press that once formalities with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Civil Aeronautics Board have been completed, AirAsia Zest will rebrand and operate as AirAsia Philippines thereby unifying the AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) brand in the Philippines.

Zest Airways Inc.'s majority shareholder Alfredo Yao will take a 15% stake in AirAsia Philippines in addition to cash, while AirAsia Philippines' existing Filipino shareholders - Antonio Cojuangco, Michael Romero, and Marianne Hontiveros - will each receive a 15% stake in the carrier. The remaining 40% will continue to be owned by parent company, AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia.

“We’ve put in USD100 million already in cash terms [into AirAsia Inc.], excluding the planes. And we are committing another USD500 million once we get the franchise approval. That’s over a period of three to four years,” Air Asia Berhad founder and Group CEO Tony Fernandes said.

Formerly Zest Air (Z2, Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l), AirAsia Zest operates a fleet of thirteen A320-200s on flights throughout the Philippines as well as to South Korea, Malaysia, Macau, and China. Once its takeover of AirAsia Zest is complete, AirAsia Philippines intends to consolidate its domestic operations with bases in Davao and Cebu before expanding its international network footprint. Growth will be supported by twelve A320-200s AirAsia Philippines has on order.

"As soon as we get the franchise, we should be able to get 15 aircraft. Then I hope we can add about five aircraft a year," said Fernandes. "My aim is to grow AirAsia Philippines in the international market. We are adding more flights in Korea, eventually China, Japan, and ASEAN, bringing more people to the Philippines like we've done in Indonesia and Thailand."