Disclaimer: This was published in the Manila Times on April 15, 2018
Flying across the seas safely
From one scheduled route in 2014, commercial seaplane and landplane operator Air Juan now has 20 destinations and three hubs
Back in 2012, licensed pilot John Anthony Gutierrez came up with the idea of connecting the Philippine islands and revolutionizing the way Filipinos travel.
“We saw the potential of combining air and sea travel and invested in a brand new fleet of Cessna Grand Caravan EX Seaplanes. This would provide access to islands without airports or airstrips, utilizing the country’s vast waters as alternate takeoff and landing options,” Gutierrez recalled.
So together with several partners and with him as president and CEO, Gutierrez started a charter company called Air Juan and by 2014, officially began its landplane operations. The company then launched its seaplane operations the following year.
“Our main goal is develop inter-island connectivity. What sets us apart from the rest is that we are able to bring our customers to places that aren’t easily accessible with a shorter travel time. A good example would be Puerto Galera. Instead of a four to five hour journey using land and ferry commute; we are able to cut it down to 30 minutes. We target those people who are time-sensitive by giving them another option.”
From one scheduled route in 2014, Air Juan currently has 20 destinations and three hubs: Manila Bay for its seaplane operations and Mactan-Cebu and Puerto Princesa for its landplane operations.
“When we started, we only had a dozen of employees but right now we are close to a hundred. In 2017, our average passengers were about 1,500 per month but right now it grew to 2,500,” says Gutierrez.
Today, Air Juan operates seaplanes, land planes and helicopters; providing fast and convenient air transport services to the Philippines’ most sought after destinations. A duly licensed scheduled airline by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Air Juan is considered as the biggest commercial seaplane operator in Southeast Asia and is accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as a Tourist Air Transport provider.
Gutierrez’s steady hand not only as a pilot but also as an entrepreneur is a big reason for Air Juan’s success. A graduate of the University of the Philippines and the American Flyers Aviation School, Santa Monica, California where he earned his wings as a licensed pilot, he was also the former first Vice President of Galeo Equipment Corporation and Owner and Manager of the United Football League’s Pachanga Diliman Football Club. Currently, he is also an investor in several Anytime Fitness gyms across the country.
This year, Air Juan plans to expand its seaplane offering by establishing a hub at the South Road Properties in mainland Cebu servicing destinations such as Candijay-Anda in Bohol, Kalanggaman Sand Bar in Leyte, Lakawon Resort in Negros, Malapascua Island and Kandaya Resort in Daang Bantayan, Cebu and Sumilon Island in Oslob, Cebu.
Gutierrez says this will make the Visayas more accessible to locals and foreigners which in turn would be a big boost to tourism in the region.
Amid Air Juan’s rapid growth, the youthful-looking executive assures the public that safety remains the company’s top priority.
“Our very young fleet of aircraft, all best in its class, is equipped with state of the art technology while our pilots are a combination of local and foreign talents with thousands of flight hours combined.”