Iloilo-Negros Air Express
|Fleet size||Revived sometime in 2011|
|Key people||Eugenio H. Lopez, Sr. (Founder)
Oscar M. Lopez (Chairman)
Benjamin R. Lopez (President)
Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company, Inc., which operated as Iloilo-Negros Air Express or INAEC and later as FEATI, was an airline based in the Philippines. The airline was folded into the operation of Philippine Airlines (PAL) which was re-nationalized by the Philippine government and became the national flag carrier. The company built the Bacolod International Airport in Bacolod City, which was bought by PAL after the acquisition of the airline.
Founded in 1932 by López family of Iloilo (the family who founded ABS-CBN), it became Asia's first commercial airline based in Iloilo and Manila that served domestic routes to Bacolod, Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Del Monte and Manila. The airline company was converted after World War II to Far Eastern Air Transport Inc. (FEATI). It was the first Filipino airline to go regional and international offering routes to Hong Kong, Bangkok, San Francisco, Shanghai, and India.
In early 2011, a plan was disclosed to revive the operation of the airline company by the Lopez Group of Companies. The mayor of Iloilo City, where the airline company was founded, was present Mayor, Jed Patrick Mabilog. He met with the son of Don Oscar Lopez and officials of the Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company (INAEC) to open routes from Iloilo.
The history of commercial aviation in the Philippines started in 1925. The first regular air services were launched in Iloilo (Central Philippines), said to be the birthplace of Filipino commercial air transportation. Jose Tinsay, an Ilongo aviator, was the first to fly the 43-kilometer Guimaras Strait between Iloilo and Bacolod.
In 1932, Don Eugenio H. Lopez, Sr., the sugar and shipping magnate, launched Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company (INAEC) which became the first Filipino-owned private airline in the Philippines with its operational base in Iloilo. INAEC’s first aircraft, a Stinson Tri-Motor, had its inaugural flight on February 1, 1933 from Iloilo to Manila. Regular air services between Manila, Bacolod, Iloilo and Cebu started within a year, and then expanded to Zambonga and Davao in another two years. INAEC with its three-engine aircraft advertised its air travels as “fast, commodious, elegant and reliant” compared with the other services.
Despite the great depression in the US and Europe, aviation in the Philippines still boomed at that time with 60 airfields scattered all over the country, four of which were in Manila. INAEC then used Grace Park (airfields were then called “parks”) located near the Bonifacio Monument.
From 1935 to April 1937, the Air Corps had arrangements with INAEC and the US Army Air Corps in Nichols Field for enlisted men to work as apprentices in their shops. Many Air Corps maintenance men had their hands-on training at INAEC.
Also in 1937, INAEC purchased its own seaplane, a Sikorsky S-43 amphibian, the most modern aircraft at that time, which carried 16 passengers. Another feat for INAEC is the introduction of steward service which was the first in the Philippines. INAEC was so successful that, by the end of the decade, it was flying 2,000 passengers a month. In 1941, it began flying to Baguio. The entire INAEC fleet was however destroyed in World War II.
But quickly after the war, Don Eugenio H. Lopez, Sr. and brother Fernando Lopez (former Vice President of the Philippines) restarted INAEC operations. INAEC was converted to Far Eastern Air Transport Inc. (FEATI), with an inaugural flight on November 19, 1945 from Grace Park in Manila to Iloilo. Immediately the airline set up a wide network of domestic routes. In May 1946, it flew to Hong Kong and Bangkok, making it the first Filipino airline to go regional. Later, with flights to San Francisco, Shanghai, and India, it became the country’s first international airline service. A combination of political and business developments in 1947 eventually forced the Lopez brothers to sell FEATI, which was merged by its new owner with PAL (Philippine Airlines).
On November 9, 1993, the INAEC brand was reborn to service the air transportation needs of the Lopez Group. On December 19, 2001 INAEC obtained its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) and immediately thereafter went into domestic and international chartering and non-scheduled air services. Plans to revive the airline company by Lopez Group of Companies was disclosed by Mayor of Iloilo City, Jed Patrick Mabilog who had met with the son of Don Oscar Lopez and officials of the loilo-Negros Air Express Company (INAEC).