Former Spirit of Manila Preps for Relaunch

 - August 12, 2013, 9:45 AM
Spirit of Manila flew a pair of McDonnell Douglas MD-83s during its short existence in late 2011.

Three of the four shareholders of the defunct Spirit of Manila Airlines (SMA) plan to relaunch and rebrand the Filipino carrier next year. According to Aldo Lance Lopez, an original stakeholder in SMA who expects to hold a 20-percent stake in the new low-cost carrier (LCC), the existing investors hope to add a foreign partner.

This marks the second attempt to relaunch the carrier. The first effort, launched last year, fizzled when a potential foreign investor pulled out after negotiations ended in a stalemate.

Lopez declined to identify the other Filipino shareholders, saying they wish to remain anonymous until a later stage.

Plans call for the carrier to base its operations at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, some 50 miles outside Manila. It expects to start with two leased single-aisle aircraft serving both leisure and business destinations within four hours flying time. It plans to decide on aircraft type after it secures funding from local banks.

Assuming it receives bank funding, the airline would become the seventh low-fare carrier to operate from Clark, targeting many of the same markets served by Tiger Airways, AirAsia, Philippine Express, Cebu Pacific, Jin Air and Air Asia Philippines.

According to the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment, an estimated 1.77 million Filipinos work in Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan.

Lopez said the need for rebranding stems from SMA’s reputation for delays and cancellations due to poor market demand. He acknowledged that poor planning and stiff competition from other LCCs pushed the airline out of the market. “We did not have deep pockets and this was another contributing factor,” he noted.

SMA started operations in October 2011 with three leased aircraft–one 737-300 and two McDonnell Douglas MD-83s–offering twice-weekly flights between Clark and Taipei. It ceased operations three months later due to poor demand on the route. The carrier harbored plans to lease three Boeing 747-400s and three 767-300s to launch flights to several destinations in the Middle East, but those aspirations evaporated almost immediately.

After SMA shuttered operations, some of its workers found employment with Astro Air, another aspiring low-fare airline that had planned to fly an MD-83 from Clark. However, a check with Clark International Airport confirmed that Astro Air was not operating and the Civil Aeronautics Board in Manila said that it did not issue it an air operator certificate.