Cebu Pacific expects to complete aircraft purchase by first half

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BUDGET CARRIER Cebu Pacific, operated by Cebu Air, Inc., expects to complete its aircraft purchase by the first half of the year, its president said on Tuesday.

“I think what we had initially said was maybe by the first quarter, but then first half was our latest guidance,” Alexander G. Lao, Cebu Pacific president and chief commercial officer told reporters.

The budget carrier earlier said that it plans to order over 100 narrow-body aircraft from Boeing or Airbus, worth roughly $12 billion.

“The process is really going back and forth with the key suppliers. It’s not just Airbus and Boeing, but it’s also the engine manufacturers; because, clearly, we have to make an engine selection with those aircraft,” Mr. Lao said.

“We expect to hopefully come to a decision by the first half. Before the first half of the year ends. So, the process is ongoing [but] there is no hard deadline. It is not like we’re chasing,” he added.

Cebu Pacific currently operates a fleet of 73 Airbus and ATR aircraft, which it earlier said will double with its planned order of more aircraft in 2024.

In 2023, the company’s listed operator Cebu Air said it would lower its fleet growth rate for 2024 as engine maker Pratt & Whitney (P&W) inspects A320/321 NEO aircraft engines worldwide following suspected issues.

About 10 to 20 aircraft are currently parked for maintenance due to the P&W issue, Mr. Lao said.

“Consumers won’t necessarily feel it. We have 14 aircraft coming this year plus the 2 damp [leases]. We expect to grow our capacity by 8%. We have to do that on an opportunistic basis,” Mr. Lao said.

Last year, the budget carrier inked an agreement with Bulgaria Air, the national carrier of the Republic of Bulgaria, for two Airbus 320ceo aircraft, which service domestic routes such as Cebu and Davao starting January to May.

This move is in line with the company’s anticipation of increased passenger demand this year.

Mr. Lao however did not provide Cebu Pacific’s passenger forecast for the year other than describing it as: “we will certainly be above 2022 numbers by a lot. 2023 will be slightly below pre-COVID.”

The company recorded a passenger count of 14.85 million in 2022 from 3.41 million in 2021. In 2019, Cebu Pacific recorded a total of 22.5 million passengers. — Ashley Erika O. Jose