Not more than a month ago, Sunlight Air officially launched to offer charter flights in the Philippines. With it came a promise to revolutionise local air travel, coincidentally, at a time when the industry has been facing its fiercest blows in the wake of a global pandemic. But after months of preparation that started in 2019, the boutique charter airline has come into its own, just in time to help revive tourism in the Philippines — and eventually, give Filipino travellers the kind of recouping they’ve long waited for: the chance to explore again.
TripZilla Philippines was fortunate enough to be invited to Sunlight Air’s inaugural flight to one of its local destinations, Busuanga in Palawan. Headed by veteran flyers with extensive aviation backgrounds, the historic journey offered a glimpse of how the airline plans to turn things up in the travel industry as it continues to battle unrelenting turbulences brought about by these hard times.
Safe and seamless charter flights in the Philippines
Aside from Palawan, Sunlight Air will fly to Siargao, Boracay, and Cebu which make up some of the top, and inevitably, most visited Philippine destinations. That being said, the airline has pledged to give travellers not just a seamless, but also safe experience throughout their journey. Measures like modified seating capacities and enhanced sanitisation procedures are among Sunlight Air’s top priorities.
Originally slated to launch in March 2020, even before quarantine in the Philippines happened, Sunlight Air was already a few steps ahead when it came down to such safety precautions. Most of them are made possible by the airline having its own check-in facility in Manila located in Pasay City. Here, passengers don’t need to go through long queues and crowded halls that make travelling such a pressing ordeal from the get-go.
Upon entering the facility, passengers and staff are asked to go through a disinfection chamber, have their temperature taken, and belongings thoroughly sanitised. Once inside, physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres is strictly enforced around the check-in counters, which come with acrylic barriers. Markings are also strategically placed on the queue area and seats. In addition, a safety poster is located in the vicinity to remind everyone to do their part.
Furthermore, the new charter flights in the Philippines by Sunlight Air only accommodate around 50 passengers per journey. This comprises 70% of its standard seating capacity.
The seats are also allotted 29 inches of space from one another. As a passenger, you will be given sanitisation kits containing tissues, alcohol, and a face mask. You can even request the crew to disinfect the package before you touch them. Upon landing, these Sunlight Air safety measures continue with systematised disembarkation and disinfection procedures.
Filipino hospitality is core to the airline’s brand and services
With an already established array of airlines offering both commercial and charter flights in the Philippines, Sunlight Air made a vow to separate itself from the rest. In what might be its most impressive scheme, the airline is not only incorporating, but really pushing for the concept of hospitality across all its services.
According to Sunlight Air Chief Executive Officer Ryna Brito, this goes hand in hand with creating a seamless travel experience for everyone. “Before the pandemic, Sunlight Air’s business model has always been focused on providing a seamless travel experience for Filipinos. It has always been Sunlight Air’s goal to provide business class service to all its passengers.”
Along with the complimentary travel sanitisation kits and stringent safety measures, Sunlight Air offers exclusive passenger lounges, its very own entertainment system, and premium customer service both on-ground and in-flight.
Different from the conventional airports many of us have grown used to, Sunlight Air’s own facility in Manila is decked in soothing features to help one relax before a journey. The use of brick walls instead of monotonous enclosures, warm lighting rather than the glaring sorts, and a private in place of a commercial location. Stepping in won’t even feel like you’ve entered an airport, but a café, museum, or boutique hotel that one won’t help but get cosy in.
The same goes with its private lounge at Busuanga Airport. Although this time, the facility offers a more contemporary backdrop bathed in natural lights, clean and sleek furniture, and outdoor views to match. Like the lounge in Manila, there, you can relax, dine, and even recharge your gadgets just before flying back to Manila.
Inside its ATR72-500s (which are refurbished fleets from Bangkok Airways), Sunlight Air boasts its own in-flight entertainment system, a first in the local charter airline industry. On our flight to Busuanga, each of us passengers was handed our own tablet and set of earphones, something I’d only experienced in commercial flights often going out of the country. The tablet comes with a folio case that one can easily use to place the device on top of your stow table. That way, you can make the most of high-quality entertainment, from videos to news, while in transit.
Sunlight Air Marketing Manager Joana Garcia likewise shared that the company will soon offer complimentary in-flight snacks on top of the bottled refreshments they currently offer. Meanwhile, you can expect their cabin crew and other staff to be always on top of things thanks to their regular training. This is to ensure that Sunlight Air’s services remain at par with universal standards, a must if one is to thrive in the travel industry.
Philippine travel packages for even more fuss-free trips
Further revolutionising the travel industry, Sunlight Air has introduced a travel bubble experience to promote a safer way to travel to Philippines’ top destinations. The package, in partnership with Asia Pacific Travel, includes round-trip airfare from Manila to a chosen Sunlight Air destination, up to four days of accommodation at a partner hotel or resort, transfers, and other perks.
The all-inclusive package is currently available for trips to Culion in Palawan via Busuanga. You will stay in Sunlight Eco Tourism Island Resort (SETIR), one of the biggest privately owned properties in the Palawan municipality. There, you can enjoy accommodation for two at an over-water villa (just like in the Maldives), daily breakfast, one-time spa treatment, one-time lunch or dinner by the beach, and a food and beverage voucher.
As for other destinations, Sunlight Air is planning to introduce the same travel bubble experience as soon as they lock in partnerships with other local hotels or resorts. As part of one’s travel experience, Sunlight Air offers discounts on COVID-19 tests, while on-site antigen testing booths may be found inside their lounge in Manila. Passengers can also enjoy flexible scheduling and cost-free rebooking, which are particularly handy given the unpredictability of domestic travel regulations.
Sunlight Air launched with the goal of being a “catalyst for growth in the airline industry”. To do it, creating seamless travel experiences for all its passengers is all but integral to its operations. And already, it hasn’t disappointed. By the looks of it, the trailblazing charter airline is reminding us that travelling isn’t just about flying from one destination to the next, but also making the journey convenient and one filled with warm moments, from beginning to end.
Special thanks to Sunlight Air for inviting TripZilla Philippines to their Manila-Busuanga inaugural flight.