Cebu Pacific Faces Longer Ground Time, Passengers Warned of Fare Hikes

In just two weeks, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines will be requiring Cebu Pacific to implement a 45-minute turnaround time between flights at local airports effective July 31. 

budget airline turnaround philippines
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
While the change was expected to be implemented on July 17 for all domestic flights, Cebu Pacific requested an additional two weeks to allow time to revise flight schedules and inform passengers.

According to Deputy Director General John Andrews, CAAP decided to grant the request in order to ensure the safe dispatch of flights. Director General William Hotchkiss cancelled an earlier scheduled press conference after determining that Cebu Pacific's request was justified.

While Cebu Pacific has every intention to comply with the order, it is not welcome news for the budget airline that observes the industry standard 25-minute turnaround time that supports the cost efficiency of the budget airline business model enabling carriers to offer lower airfares to passengers.

Low cost airlines utilize a business model that concentrates on more time in-flight than on the ground so that major assets such as aircraft enjoy maximum utilization for efficiency and productivity. Ground time is intended as a quick turnaround allotted solely for offloading, refuelling, and loading again.

The decision for Cebu Pacific to increase their turnaround time comes as a result of the corrective action plan implemented by CAAP following the June incident which saw a Cebu Pacific aircraft veer off the runway at Davao Airport. Andrews believes that the current 25-minute turnaround time does not allow Cebu Pacific pilots sufficient time to perform aircraft inspections including personally inspecting landing gear, engines, and other important parts of the aircraft prior to take off.

Andrews noted that responsibility to inspect the aircraft cannot be delegated to a mechanic or anyone else as the pilot is solely responsible for that flight and the aircraft. "We have seen instances of the aircraft returning because the engine cowling is not properly locked," said Andrews, a former PAL and Cebu Pacific pilot.

Andrews dismissed a question regarding the implication of the order on airfares in the country citing that market forces dictate airfares and nothing else. While he admitted that Cebu Pacific's operating costs may rise, he argued that if all airlines follow the same practice, everyone will have the same operating cost which may further level the playing field. But budget carriers in the Philippines don't quite see the order the same way as Andrews does.

Budget airlines are warning of the potential for higher airfares should the government choose to implement a new turnaround time policy for domestic flights. According to Mariane Hontiveros, CEO of Air Asia Philippines, the airline is seeking clarifications on the intentions of CAAP. "We are seeking clarifications on that because the report I read was that the order was meant for Cebu Pacific as a direct result of the accident and I think that was one of the things that was made conditional as it was going to be effective for Cebu Pacific. We haven't gotten a notice that it affects us," said Hontiveros.

Hontiveros says that a 45-minute turnaround policy will affect the operations of a budget airline. "Our public will have to bear the additional costs and I really would like to know what is the reason for it," added Hontiveros. An airline executive that wished to remain anonymous stated that such a policy is not feasible for budget carriers. The executive noted that if ticket prices are raised, the growth of the air industry in the country will be affected. Current statistics suggest that only 5 million of the country's 92 million residents travel by air five to six times per year.

Meanwhile, Andrews says that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines will initiate a dialogue with local carriers including Zest Air, PAL Express, and Tigerair Philippines on July 17 to ask their opinion about the directive being imposed on Cebu Pacific.


  1. Any update on what has happened on the dialogue with the airlines on July 17? As a pilot still learning, we are taught pre-flight inspections are of prime importance. Better to find something wrong on the ground than in the air. If pilots are really reporting a limited time to inspect THEIR aircraft before flight, what kind of reassurance does that give the flying public on the safety of PH skies? This needs further investigation. SAFETY over profit.

  2. Absolutely correct "Anonymous", very well said.
    Let's just hope that when you have your wings, you aren't pressured into shortcutting.

  3. Apart from low-cost and cheaper airfares tickets that vary from one airline to a different, another factors square measure there that matter plenty whereas evaluating cluster transportation rates from varied airlines.

  4. Why is there a difference between a budget airline and a mainstream carrier when it comes to turnaround time afforded to pilots.
    As a pax, i don't give a shit whether i fly Cathay Pacific or Zest Air, but regardless of which airline i choose, i should be afforded the same amount of safety consideration.


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