Budget carrier Airphil Express eyes to aggressively expand its regional routes in the next few months, despite experiencing a shortage in pilots recently.Airphil Express executive vice president and chief operating officer Cesar Chiong said they may add 5 more destinations in Asia within the first half of next year as they take delivery of new aircraft. The airline plans to start flying to Hong Kong, Korea, Kuala Lumpur, Bali and China, but this would "depend on air entitlements.""If [we] get the traffic rights, of course, we will tap those markets," Chiong said. Airphil Express launched last week its maiden international flight to Singapore, one of the most profitable and high-growth routes for airlines operating in Southeast Asia.Domestically, it just started flights to Legazpi, Tagbilaran, Catarman, and Ozamis. However, after launching the new destinations, Airphil Express experienced a shortage in pilots which forced it to cancel or delay several local flights over the weekend.In a text message to abs-cbnNEWS.com, Airphil Express vice president for marketing and media Maria Java said the problem did not have an impact on their expansion plans. "We do not expect this circumstance to happen again," she said.In August, Airphil Express' affiliate, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), was also forced to cancel flights after 25 of its pilots suddenly quit for higher paying jobs abroad. Java clarified that last weekend's pilot shortage was "in no way related to PAL concerns. Our incident is isolated.""All our operations are now back to normal and on schedule," she added. Airphil Express, which is owned by tycoon Lucio Tan, was formerly Air Philippines until it was folded into the operations of PAL and its budget airline arm, PAL Express. In October 2009, Airphil Express began operating PAL Express flights on behalf of PAL. In the next 2 and a half years, Airphil Express will spend $250 million for the acquisition of up to 20 more aircraft to service both domestic and expanding international operations.IPOMeanwhile, Airphil Express is targeting to undertake an initial public offering (IPO) within 2 to 3 years, Chiong said. The proceeds will be used to fund expansion."Timing is very important. The local economy is expected to grow faster with the recovery of the US economy. That will do us good," Chiong noted.Airphil Express' rival, Cebu Pacific, raised P26.8 billion or $611 million in its October 27 IPO, making it a record amount in dollar terms for a Philippine listing. Cebu Pacific, a unit of Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Corp., expects to increase its international capacity by 25% in 4 to 5 years via new foreign routes.