DAVAO CITY Philipppines — Buoyed by its successful flights between Davao City and Koror Palau Micronesia Air is eyeing a joint venture with Asian Spirit to enable the latter fly Palau Air’s other international routes.

This developed as Asian Spirit officials are looking into the possibility of changing its flight schedule from Koror to Davao to make it friendlier to commuters.

Surangel Whipps Jr. president and chief executive officer of Surangel and Sons a major investor in Palau Air said Asian Spirit can go international using the flying rights of the Palau carrier. “The idea is [a] long term [partnership with Asian Spirit]. PM Air would be the partner on continuing those routes in Micronesia. Because PM Air not only has the rights to fly to the Philippines but through Micronesia (Chuuk Pohnpaei Yap Kosrae) Australia the United States and Guam. Maybe later on we would come up with a joint venture [then Asian Spirit can really go international] using our routes.”

But he stressed that the immediate focus of the partnership between the two carriers is to make the Davao-Koror route successful. “We can also get Japan and the others but that’s gonna take time. It will take a different aircraft. It’s in our interest to help Asian Spirit make this [Davao-Koror route] a successful one prove that it’s good and then say ‘Okay. Now this is the time for us to be serious about how we’re going to move forward.’”

At present PM Air through Surangel and Sons acts as the general sales agent for Asian Spirit. The Palau carrier whose logo is painted on the underside of the British Aerospace 146-200 flying between Davao and Koror sells tickets for the routes. Another PM Air investor Western Pacific headed by former Palau president Kuniwo Nakamura acts as ground handler for the Philippine carrier. Other major investors in PMAir include Gibbons Enterprises of Palau Paramount High Chief Ibedul Sen. Alan Seid owner of Midcorp and Sam Masang owner of Palau Equipment.

Asked whether PM Air still wants to fly on its own someday Whipps said: “The five founders still want to [realize] the dream of getting better [air] service into Palau at a more reasonable price. Whether we [PM Air] do it or Asian Spirit does it doesn’t matter to us as long as it’s done. Whether we get PMAir going again is something we can think about but our most important priority is to get Asian Spirit running whatever way we can help them do it.”

Meanwhile Antonio Turalba Jr. chairman of Asian Spirit said that the present departure and arrival times of the carrier were slots given by the Palau airport authority because the airport is being renovated. “Priority of course has been given to Continental which has been flying there longer. The renovation which began before we launched our flights between Davao and Koror were scheduled around the flight operations of that airline.” Far Eastern Airport Transport flies a charter service to Koror from Taipei Taiwan while Japan Airlines also operates a charter service from Tokyo and other cities in Japan.

At present the flight from Davao leaves at 8:30 p.m. (Philippine time) and arrives in Koror at 11 p.m. (Palau time) every Sunday Tuesday and Thursday. The flight from Koror leaves at 3:30 a.m. (Palau time) and arrives in Davao at 4 a.m. every Monday Wednesday and Friday.

The arrival time in Davao makes it difficult for passengers to check into hotels when the usual check out time is 12 noon to 2 p.m. Some members of the Palau delegation during the familiarization tour were seen sitting around or sleeping on the lounges of the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao past 7:30 a.m. on April 7 because no rooms were available for them. The same situation was true for the Palau government officials who were assigned to Marco Polo Hotel Davao.

Linie Cortez-Palacio manager of Waterfront Insular said she has requested Asian Spirit officials to change the arrival time of the Koror flight to Davao because hotels are fully occupied on weekends. “We can’t hold the hotel rooms for them [passengers from Koror] as that would mean loss of income for us for one day ” she told the Journal.

Whipps said however that passengers may have to wait until November for the flight schedules to be changed. He added that even FEAT of Taipei has had to move its flights to the evenings. “Right now they [airport authority] started paving the runway. The contract ends in November. So after that the airport would be opened during the day. Right now it’s only opened Saturdays and Wednesdays during the day. All the other days it’s closed during the day. The reason it’s open on Saturdays and Wednesdays during the day is because of Continental which has two flights a week from Manila. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is giving us the money to do the runway. [Our present flight schedule] is unfortunate but we have to deal with that and it [paving of the runway] has be done.” .MBJ