Cebu Pacific to buy plane for long-haul flightsBy Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TOULOUSE, France—Budget carrier Cebu Pacific is looking into purchasing one of today’s most advanced passenger jet liners, as it expands its fleet by buying new planes capable of longer flights to new markets.
Alex Reyes, head of Cebu Pacific’s newly established long-haul operations division, said the Gokongwei-led firm may add either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or the brand new Airbus A350 to the list of plane models in its expanding fleet.
Last week, Cebu Pacific took delivery of its first wide-body aircraft, the 436-seater Airbus A330-300.
The new plane will allow the company to mount long-haul flights to points in the Middle East, Australia, Eastern Europe and the United States.
Prior to the A330’s arrival, all of Cebu Pacific’s planes were Airbus A320s, which carry fewer passengers and are capable only of short-haul flights.
“(What) has happened in the aviation industry is there is a next generation of aircraft coming on stream,” Reyes said, referring to the 787 and the A350.
“All of these technologies promise additional fuel savings. We always study what is available out there,” Reyes said, adding that the acquisition of either the 787 or the A350 was “definitely possible.”
The American-made 787 Dreamliner entered into service in September 2011. However, the plane’s reliability was recently put into question following problems with its battery systems that forced US regulators to ground all 787s due to safety concerns.
The grounding was lifted in April.
The newer Airbus A350, which had its first test flight ahead of the annual Paris Air Show last Friday, is expected to compete directly with the 787.
Both planes have a similar range of around 7,000 miles per flight, and can carry between 200 and 300 passengers, depending on how seats are configured.
Both have fuselages built using mostly composite carbon fiber, a material stronger, lighter, and less prone to wear and tear than the metal parts used in older plane models.
Cebu Pacific’s ongoing expansion plans come amid recent calls for the grounding of its entire fleet following incidents this month involving the company’s aircraft at two major airports in the Philippines.
Last June 2, a Cebu Pacific Airbus A320 skid off the runway at the Davao International Airport moments after it landed. The incident was described by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) officials as a “runway excursion” most likely caused by pilot error.
Meanwhile, last week, another Cebu Pacific A320 skidded shortly after landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in Manila, taking out some of the airport’s runway lights.
All passengers on both flights were unharmed.