Cebu Pacific Mulls Fleet Expansion

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LIMITED slots at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) have prompted Cebu Pacific to consider shifting its flight operations using larger planes.

The plan to acquire aircraft with larger capacity came on the heels of the budget carrier’s expansion of its long-haul routes.

Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei said his airline will be conducting a feasibility study to review the firm’s 50-strong fleet.

“We’re constantly evaluating our fleet plan. At this time, we’re still on our feasibility study. We’re getting basic data from manufacturers and are evaluating the business case,” he said in a chance interview.

“I think the market is going towards larger planes, because the slots are limited. We are still studying if we could shift from using Airbus A320s to A321. We have to make maximum use of limited slots.”

Airbus 321
Airbus 321

Airbus A320 has an average passenger seating capacity of 180 seats, and Cebu Pacific is planning to configure brand-new A321neo fleet with 220 seats in a single-class layout.

The businessman said that his firm is planning to expand its operations to Europe and the United States, pending the acquisition of bigger aircraft that could handle larger volumes of passengers.

“We are in constant contact with all manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing and even smaller industry players,” Gokongwei noted.

In April the Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to Category 1 status, allowing airlines from the Philippines to expand and mount additional flights to the United States. It has been downgraded to Category 2 since 2008 because it did not fully satisfied international safety standards.

In the same month, the European Union has also lifted the ban on Cebu Pacific, allowing the budget carrier to soar to the 28-state members. The Union has blacklisted Philippine carriers since it contested the safety concerns, which include low salaries of highly technical personnel.

The firm is set to increase its capacity to service customers as it is scheduled to receive its third Airbus A330 aircraft in August, bringing the carrier’s wide-body aircraft to five. These are mostly used for its long-haul operations.

The firm currently operates 50 aircraft, and between 2014 and 2021, the airline will take delivery of 11 more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 A321neo and two A330 aircraft.

Aside from better aircraft, the Gokongwei-led carrier has also vied for increased seat entitlements in Hong Kong and Australia flights as it is also asking prioritization to Civil Aeronautics Board, said Cebu Pacific General Manager of Long Haul Division Alex B. Reyes.

“We would like to see some substantial increase in the Hong Kong entitlements. There hasn’t been a capacity increase in like six years, Manila and Hong Kong. So we would like to see a substantial increase,” he added.

Cebu Pacific currently operates over 2,200 flights per week with 50 planes flying to 24 international and 33 Philippine cities.

The airline’s hubs are in Metro Manila, Cebu and Clark in Pampanga.

Source: Brenda C. Grifon