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Cebu Pacific pursues P4-B refleeting plan

MANILA, Philippines - Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) is gearing up for long-haul flights to Europe and the US as it pursues its $4-billion refleeting program.

During the celebration of the arrival of the airline’s second Airbus A330-300 yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said the airline would seek the green light from the European Union to fly to the European airspace in November.

“We are planning to go to the EU this November, as you know we were planning to go in May but we decided to delay that. In November, we are going to make a formal presentation to EU authorities and we are likewise working toward a certification to be able to fly to Europe,” Gokongwei stressed.

He believes that Cebu Pacific operates a safe airline despite the incident involving two of its aircraft in the Davao International Airport and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last June.

Since the incident, he added that the airline has complied with the recommendations of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) particularly on the training of its pilots as well as the review of its flight operating system by experts from Airbus.

“Based on that we continue to work towards going to Europe in cooperation with the CAB and the other EU governments to make our case to the EU aviation sector this November,” Gokongwei said.

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Last July 10, the EU announced the lifting of a ban imposed in 2010 that would allow national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to fly again in Europe after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) addressed major safety concerns.

No less than PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang announced that the airline is looking at returning to popular European destinations as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, and Madrid.

He added that Cebu Pacific is also looking at mounting flights to the US particularly Guam and Hawaii once the country’s status is upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration back to Category 1 within the year.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to category 2 from category 1after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

It would be recalled that ICAO lifted the remaining significant security concerns after Philippines through the CAAP passed the audit conducted from Feb. 18 to Feb. 22 paving the way for the series of upgrades.

“For the US, there have been some pronouncements that Philippines expects to get out of Category 2 in the fourth quarter. At that point, we will probably look at certain routes in the US including Guam and Hawaii,” Gokongwei said.

The Cebu Pacific chief pointed out that the airline is in the middle of a $4 billion refleeting program.

Between 2013 and 2021, Cebu Pacific is scheduled to take delivery of 15 more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 A321neo, and four A330 aircraft. The airline has a fleet of 47 aircraft consisting of 10 Airbus A319, 27 A320, two Airbus A330 and eight ATR-72 500 aircraft.

Alex Reyes, vice president for long haul operations of Cebu Pacific, told reporters yesterday that the airline is also looking at the Middle East where there are about three million Filipinos as well as Japan where around 250,000 Filipinos are working and living.

Reyes said the airline is set to use its second A330-300 to mount direct flights to Dubai starting Oct. 7 and is also looking at other countries in the Middle East with many Filipinos such as Saudi Arabia with 1.5 million,

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