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CebuPac beefs up fleet to 50 aircraft

MANILA, Philippines - Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) now operates a fleet of 50 aircraft after receiving its brand new Airbus A330 last week as the low cost carrier gears up for its long-haul operations.

The low cost carrier’s fleet is now composed of 10 A319, 29 Airbus A320, three Airbus A330, and eight ATR-72 500 aircraft.

Cebu Pacific expects two more A330 aircraft to be delivered in May and August bringing to five the number of its widebody Airbus fleet.

 “By end of 2014, the airline will be utilizing five widebody Airbus A330 aircraft for its long haul operations,” the airline said.

The listed budget airline is in the middle of a $4-billion refleeting program aimed at acquiring 49 brand new Airbus aircraft. It expects the delivery of 13 A320, 30 A321neo, and three A330 between 2014 and 2021.

For this year alone, Cebu Pacific is scheduled to take the delivery of eight Airbus aircraft composed of five A320 and three A330. However, the airline would return the lease for four A320.

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Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei said during the announcement of the $15-million deal to acquire 100 percent of Tiger Airways Philippines that the airline expects the delivery of three A330 for its long-haul operations this year.

With the acquisition of Tigerair Philippines, the airline plans to shift some of its aircraft to Tigerair Philippines that is expected to return the lease of three A319 to its parent firm in Singapore.

Cebu Pacific is spending $7 million to acquire the 40-percent stake of Tiger Airways Singapore Pte. Ltd. and another $8 million to purchase the 60-percent interest of Filipino shareholders in Tigerair Philippines.

Gokongwei said Cebu Pacific plans to use the A330 to launch new routes in the Middle East as well as Australia.

The low cost carrier is gearing up for possible flights to the US and Europe as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) continued to address aviation safety concerns.

However, the airline’s plan to seek the green light from the European Union to fly to the European airspace in November got derailed after Super Typhoon Yolanda battered several provinces in the Visayas last Nov. 8.

The EU which lifted the ban on national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) last July allowing it to fly to London last Nov. 4 is set to tackle Cebu Pacific’s application in March this year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) is expected to make an announcement on the upgrade of the country’s status back to Category 1 within the first quarter after it was downgraded to Category 2 in 2008 after 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 in February last year paving the way for the series of upgrades.

Atty. Jorenz Tanada, vice president for corporate affairs at Cebu Pacific, earlier said the airline sees its volume of passengers growing by at least eight percent this year.

Operating statistics released by Cebu Pacific showed that volume of passengers of the low cost carrier went up by 8.3 percent but fell short of its 15 million target for last year. The airline flew 14.35 million passengers last year or 1.1 million more than the 13.25 million it flew in 2012.


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