Cebu Pacific to restore domestic prepandemic capacity by Q2
Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest budget airline, is launching a “big drive” to rehire pilots and cabin crew with prepandemic recovery in full view amid an ongoing demand surge.
The low cost carrier saw a rebound from the Omicron-induced slowdown last month and was on track to reach 60 to 65 percent of its prepandemic domestic capacity in February, Michael Szucs, Cebu Pacific chief executive adviser, told Bloomberg News in an interview on Feb. 15.
He said the figure would climb to 100 percent capacity by April this year as restrictions are further rolled back.
“That is a massive change compared to where we were in the early parts of the pandemic,” Szucs said.
“What is going to happen in this market is we are going to see everyone wanting to travel again. We are seeing that in terms of the demand surge,” he added.
This is also prompting the carrier to bring back employees that were retrenched in 2020 as the industry struggled with plummeting cash reserves while flights were grounded by the global health crisis.
Parent firm Cebu Air Inc. said in its latest annual report the airline group cut 39 percent of its workforce as of end-2020, equivalent to 1,690 jobs. This included the reduction 1,478 employees in flight operations, maintenance, cargo and catering.
“We are in quite a bit of a surge now in terms of our recruitment, particularly, on the frontliners, which is cabin crew, the ground staff and the pilots,” Szucs said.
“So they are coming back in line with the demand surge I was talking about earlier, which we see taking place end of March going into the summer season,” he added.
Cebu Air saw losses widen nearly 50 percent to P22 billion as of September last year due to the Delta coronavirus outbreak.
Carriers around the region were facing similar challenges due to travel bans and depressed demand for travel.
The International Air Transport Association estimated that Asia-Pacific airlines lost $11.2 billion in 2021, but this was expected to narrow significantly to a $2.4 billion loss in 2022.
Szucs said rising oil prices, a major operating expense for airlines, remained a concern but he assured that Cebu Pacific was ready to go head to head against rivals.
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