Cebu Pacific mulls purchase of bigger aircraft for long-haul flights

MANILA – The operator of Cebu Pacific is mulling over the acquisition of bigger aircraft for the expansion of its long-haul operations.

During its stockholders meeting on Thursday, Cebu Air Inc (CEB) president Lance Y. Gokongwei told reporters that the company is in “constant contact with all aircraft manufacturers” — such as Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier — for the purchase of new aircraft.

“I think the market is going towards larger planes because slots are limited. We have to make maximum use of limited slots,” Gokongwei said, referring to the limited slots at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

According to the Department of Transportation and Communications, the NAIA’s runway can accommodate an hourly average of 36 events, defined as either takeoffs or landings. Aircraft movements — either takeoffs or landings — at NAIA went up to 255,000 in 2011 compared with 171,000 in 2006.

Data from the Department of Tourism show that the fleet of commercial airlines doubled to 119 in May last year from only 62 in 2008. These aircraft serviced 30 million passengers last year, up from 18 million in 2006.

The number of Cebu Pacific’s aircraft increased to 51 as of March — including 3 brand new Airbus A330 aircraft — from 43 last year.

Cebu Pacific’s plan to acquire bigger aircraft is in line with its strategy to operate long-haul flights, such as to Europe and the US.

“We’re constantly evaluating our complete plan. So clearly if we’re to do Europe and west coast in the United States then we need a new aircraft. At this time we’re still on our feasibility study,” Gokongwei said.

He said the company also is looking at increasing its flight entitlements to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and Taiwan.

“We’ve actually asked CAB as well to prioritize those countries, Hong Kong as well as Australia. We feel that there’s really a lot of potential for the tourism growth from those countries, especially Hong Kong and Australia,” Gokongwei said, referring to the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Cebu Pacific has 15,000 seats for Hong Kong.

“We’d like to see some substantial increase in the Hong Kong entitlements. There hasn’t been a capacity increase in like 6 years between Manila and Hong Kong. So we’d like to see a substantial increase,” Gokongwei said.

In the first quarter, CEB reported a net income of P164.164 million, 85.8 percent lower than the P1.157 billion in the same three months of last year.

Revenues of P11.76 billion were 11.6 percent higher than the P10.54 billion in 2013. Passenger revenues amounted to P8.85 billion, up 8.3 percent from P8.17 billion last year.