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Business

1 in 5 Cebu Pacific aircraft grounded next year

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
1 in 5 Cebu Pacific aircraft grounded next year
Airbus A320neo
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific expects to close 2024 with a total of 92 aircraft in its fold, but one in every five of those will be out of service to make way for the repair of their jet engines.

Cebu Pacific CEO Mike Szucs told The STAR that although the airline should end 2024 with 92 jets in its fleet, 20 of them would be grounded in the shop for at least eight months.

These aircraft, mostly Airbus A320neos, are powered by engines made by Pratt & Whitney, which is recalling its product to repair a manufacturing flaw in as many as 700 units.

As a consequence, Cebu Pacific anticipates 10 of its aircraft to be parked by the end of 2023 and 20 of them by the close of 2024. In a timeline provided by Pratt & Whitney, Cebu Pacific has to wait for a minimum of 240 days before its aircraft are returned from the shop.

Also, Cebu Pacific projects delays of up to five months for the delivery of new jets from Airbus, as the manufacturer of commercial aircraft tries to deliver its backlog of commitments to carriers worldwide. The delays could run for another three years, according to Szucs.

In response, Szucs said Cebu Pacific is looking for options to mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions, as the demand for air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, requiring as many jets as possible for commercial use.

For one, Cebu Pacific will partner with Bulgaria’s flag carrier Bulgaria Air for the wet lease of two aircraft between January and April.

The agreement will allow Bulgaria Air to station two of its units in Manila, lending them to Cebu Pacific to serve some of its flights to domestic destinations.

At the moment, Cebu Pacific president and chief commercial officer Alexander Lao wants to use the Bulgaria Air jets for its daily flights from Manila to Cebu and Davao. Lao said the services to be flown by the foreign carrier will be manned by its own pilot and staff.

Cebu Pacific may look into the possibility of extending the wet lease beyond April. However, the Bulgarian flag carrier may order the jets back to Europe to serve the spring demand.

Likewise, Lao said Cebu Pacific would rearrange its aircraft assignment next year, reallocating the wide-body jets for short-haul, but popular flights like Singapore and Tokyo.

This means that Cebu Pacific will continue to defer its plan to operate long-haul flights to Saudi Arabia, as the route will require wide-body aircraft for operational efficiency.

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