When it comes to packed orange juice, there is one brand that we all grew-up with and that is Zest-O. Who would have ever thought that the famous orange juice will become an airline? Well it did way back in 2008, and that was no less than Zest Air, which had a slogan "Asia's Most Refreshing Airline." It was an airline named after an orange juice drink, with a vibrant orange and green livery.
Zest Air became the Philippines's 3rd low cost airline during that time after it transitioned from Asian Spirit when businessman Alfredo Yao of AMY Holdings that time bought it. He is also the founder of Zesto Corporation, the company behind the famous Zesto-O orange drink! Now there is the connection as to why this airline was named after the orange juice drink! Same as how Cebu Pacific was named after the Gokongweis's birthplace which is Cebu.
During that time, other low cost airlines operating in the Philippines were Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express.
Zest Air started with a fleet of two Airbus A320 jets and around four Chinese-made Xian MA60 turboprop which is based on the Russian-built Antonov AN-24.
Competition in the low-cost airline segment became stiffer, as all Cebu Pacific, AirPhil Express, and Zest Air slugged it out to gain market share. While Cebu Pacific was still taking lead, AirPhil Express and Zest Air were infact offering lower fares. The only problem Zest Air had was that Chinese-made MA-60 turboprop. Two incidents of MA-60s overshooting and skidding off the runway at Caticlan Airport have given the impression to travellers that the MA-60s are dangerous to fly on. At the same time, news circulated that the Chinese-made turboprops were not certified by the FAA and the EASA.
Zest Air began to add more Airbus A320 to its fleet in order to add more capacity and to overtake AirPhil Express in terms of market share and growth rate. MA-60s were slowly being retired from the fleet in favor of more Airbus jets.
In 2013, Zest Air signed a share swap deal with AirAsia Philippines who was operating from Clark that time. AirAsia Philippines that time was still a domestic airline with foreign interest from AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia. The deal involved the swap of shares between the three parties. Prior to the swap, Air Asia was not able to get slots in Manila due to the congestion of the airport.
Less than a year after, Zest Air was rebranded as AirAsia Zest, carrying both the AirAsia and Zest Air brand where Air Asia Philippines would be moving its operations to Manila. The livery of the new brand used that of AirAsia with a "Zest" on it.
In 2015, AirAsia Zest formally became Philippines AirAsia.
Today, the former competition between Cebu Pacific, AirPhil Express, and Zest Air still lives on. Cebu Pacific remained the same. AirPhil Express later on became PAL Express and Zest Air is now Philippines AirAsia.
While we do recall those days of vibrant orange and green, we are happy that Philippines AirAsia is now able to serve the country and compete in the low cost sector. More competition and more options are definitely beneficial to the flying public.
So if you see a Philippines AirAsia aircraft, never forget that it was once an "orange juice".