By MONICA ARANETA TIOSEJO
Images by NOEL PABALATE
Video by ROCHWALD FIGUEROA
Asian Aerospace executive vice president Paj Rodriguez
Most airlines will tell you where to travel. They’ll use photographs and videos of tropical idylls, falling leaves, and winter wonderlands to provoke the market’s longing for escape or adventure. A journey could be set into motion by nothing more than one happy visual. For business aviation companies like Asian Aerospace, it’s not so much the destination. They go the extra mile, and show you how to travel.
Asian Aerospace started in 1996, and slowly started connecting the different parts of the Philippines to prompt development. They’re in Manila, Cebu, Clark, Boracay, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, Davao, and are constantly on the lookout for locations that show promise. Just the same, they can bring you anywhere locally and regionally, going as far as Australia.
In 2001, the company started investing in Clark. They built a facility from the ground up, funding over $80 million for six-hectares of aircraft maintenance hangars that support local and foreign aircraft. There’s also the newly completed private jet terminal or what industry people call an FBO (Fixed Based Operations) to provide VIPs with resortlike welcomes and send-offs. There are eight lounges and meeting rooms, and you can even tailor the menus. The experience comes complete with customs-immigration-quarantine processing, so travelers don’t have to line up, and there are nap rooms and showers for quick turnaround flights.
Inside one of Asian Aerospace’s private jets
“When you talk about Build, Build, Build, of course, you talk about Clark,” Asian Aerospace executive vice president Paj Rodriguez says. “In Clark, there are so many new developments, also in line with the upcoming SEA Games. It’s crazy! There are so many things happening now. We are just in time to see the fruits as we welcome business jets from around the world. Investors who want to invest in the Philippines start in Clark. Manila is a capital city, it’s just like any capital city, it’s traffic and it’s expensive. Over here in Clark, they see lots of opportunities. That’s why we welcome them, and this first step, when they land in Clark makes them feel the potential.”
Paj, 30, has been working for the family business since he was a child, and officially after graduating college. During this time, he’s made and nurtured his own “baby,” a division called AirTaxi.ph. The business is hot right now. If you check social media, big shots, celebrities, and influencers, et al. like posting pictures of them posing in one of AirTaxi.ph’s 27 jets and helicopters positioned nationwide. The fleet is available for VIP flights, cargo, surveying, aerial tours, air ambulance missions, and other special missions flights. In fact, their Emerald AirCard Membership that offers 20 percent discount from list rates, was developed to evacuate areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda and to bring help to the site.
While they wanted to accommodate everyone, they only had 11 aircraft then, and needed to prioritize groups amid the calamity. With the membership, not only do you get a discount, you’ll always be on the priority list in case something happens and you need to be evacuated. You’ll be taken care of. They’ve also developed a Timeshare Membership, which offers 40 percent discount and access to the entire fleet.
The hangar in Manila
Paj offers a glimpse into the world of the millionaire and billionaire set. For them, private air travel is about safety and time. Imagine this: A CEO has a lunch meeting in Boracay. Here’s the catch. He has to back in Manila for another meeting over merienda, and one more over dinner.
If he were to fly commercial, from Manila, he would take at least 30 minutes to go to the airport, 60 minutes to process check-in, x number of minutes waiting for his flight, 60 minutes on the plane, 30 minutes to check out, 20 minutes to go to the Caticlan Jetty Port, 15 minutes to line up, 30 minutes to go the Boracay Jetty Port, and another 30 minutes to go to his hotel. At least 275 (four and a half hours!) minutes vis-à-vis a helicopter ride with a total point-to-point travel time of 105 minutes (1.75 hours).
For many, flying private is a fantasy, a luxury any normal person will never be able to afford—but it could be more affordable than you think. It could be reasonably priced especially if you’re part of a small group. If we were to use the Boracay example, AirTaxi.ph’s round trip chopper ride for three is ₱240,900—that’s ₱80,000 per person. With the 20 percent discount, it’s ₱64,240 per person, and with a 40 percent discount, it’s ₱48,180 per person. Still pretty steep, but once in a while, AirTaxi.ph posts last-minute deals on their social media, where a flight to Boracay on a Gulfstream G450 VIP Jet (not just a chopper) is priced at around ₱8,000, one way. A one-way ticket on Philippine Airline’s Premium Economy to Boracay is more expensive at ₱11,300!
One of the lounges in the new FBO in Clark
These last-minute deals for oneway private jet charters cost between ₱7,000 and ₱10,000, which can be within a regular person’s budget. So while the lifestyle is luxurious, it is accessible.
The prices are made appealing because the trips are random, and are shared with a small group of other passengers. Lucky you, if you get the entire plane to yourself. The Gulfstream can accommodate 14 people, still fewer people you’ll encounter than in an airport bathroom. It’s semi private flying, and travelers fly in and out of small, private terminals, and don’t have to deal with security or administration, and best of all, can arrive just 15 minutes before departure time.
While the numbers circle your head, Paj says that the most luxurious, priceless thing will always be time. “You don’t really notice how fast time passes when you’re having fun. It’s the same for everyone. And when you’re doing what you love, that means you’re having a lot of fun… Maybe you started when you were 25, maybe you started when you were 45, next thing you know, you’re 65. Look at how much time you have left—less than 10,000 days left. And how are you going to make everything fit in that time? At the end of the day, it’s never about money. It’s really about time,” he says.
That’s not just how to travel, that’s how to live. What are you waiting for?
Visit AirTaxi.ph and @AirTaxiPH on Facebook and @airtaxi.ph on Instagram.