Cebu Pacific eyes Australia, India and Russia from 2024 with new A321XLRs

Cebu Pacific plans to look at expanding in Australia and launching services to India and Russia from 2024, when it starts taking delivery of its new Airbus A321XLRs. The Philippine LCC placed an order for 10 A321XLRs at the 2019 Paris Air Show, where the new long-range variant of the A321neo was launched. Cebu Pacific at the same time ordered 16 A330-900s and five A320neos, as previously reported by The Blue Swan Daily.

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Cebu Pacific chief executive adviser Mike Szucs explained on sidelines of this year’s CAPA North Asia LCCs Summit in Cebu that the group’s first two A321XLRs will be delivered in 2024 followed by the remaining eight aircraft in 2025 and 2026. The group therefore has plenty of time before deciding on routes for the 10 aircraft but Australia, India and Russia are among the possibilities.

“It feels like by the time it comes in 2024 that will be the time where we probably want to add some of those destinations that are probably not top of our list at the moment,” Mr Szucs told CAPA TV. “India is not right at the forefront of our mind at the minute but come 2024 I think it will be interesting for us.”

India would be served from Manila as any Indian city would be a new destination. For Australia, Cebu Pacific plans to consider A321XLR flights from its second largest base at Mactan-Cebu because it already serves Melbourne and Sydney from Manila with larger A330-300s.

Mr Szucs said new long haul widebody routes is not a priority for Cebu Pacific as it plans to focus on up-gauging regional flights from A320 family aircraft to A330-900s as its A330 fleet doubles. However, more frequencies from Manila to Melbourne to Sydney are possible and these would potentially be supplemented with new A321XLR flights from Mactan-Cebu.

Russia would most likely be served from Manila. As is the case with India, there are currently no nonstop flights between the Philippines and Russia. “We think it’s an interesting option for us. Let’s see,” Mr Szucs said. “There’s lots of route planning to go but I think by the time we get to 2024 we will want to be opening our eyes.”

Cebu Pacific plans to configure its A321XLRs with 240 all-economy seats. Opting for the maximum density will limit the range slightly but the aircraft will still be able to reach Australia, India and most of Russia without payload limitations. Melbourne, Sydney and Dubai are Cebu Pacific’s only routes over five hours duration at the moment.

CHART – The arrival of the A321XLR will extend the Cebu Pacific network, where the average flight duration is just over two hoursSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 12-Aug-2019)

The airline dropped three Middle East routes in 2017 which were unprofitable due to aggressive competition from full service Middle Eastern carriers. “We aren’t going to rush back in,” Mr Szucs said. “I think Dubai is a very strong market. Dubai is such a big market there is space for everyone. I would anticipate potentially adding more frequency to Dubai. And Australia is doing well for us.”

Cebu Pacific may also launch routes in the five- to six-hour range to northern China from Mactan-Cebu. While these could be served with the A321XLRs they are also within range of the A320neo and A321neo; Cebu Pacific began operating both types earlier this year. “China is developing a lot of airfields. These secondary and tertiary airports in China will be big places so I think those will be great for inbound tourism particularly from somewhere like Cebu,” Mr Szucs said.

HEAR MORE.. Cebu Pacific chief executive advisor Mike Szucs discusses the airline group’s recent Airbus order, anticipated capacity growth, up-gauging at Manila and potential growth from secondary bases in this exclusive interview filmed on the sidelines of the CAPA North Asia LCCs summit in Jun-2019.