Cebu Pacific Gets Clearance to India, Zest Cleared for Saudi Arabia

The Civil Aeronautics Board has released a document indicating that Cebu Pacific has been cleared by the government to serve India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But the budget airline still faces several hurdles before it can officially launch flights.
cebu pacific india
Image Source: Wikimedia
Philippine Airlines still retains six of the seven weekly entitlements that are currently available between Manila and India. Although Philippine Airlines recently cancelled its route to New Delhi, Cebu Pacific still needs to file an application for these entitlements. According to an official from the Civil Aeronautics Board, in spite of Cebu Pacific's new designation as a carrier to India, the process to apply for the entitlements could take several months.

Meanwhile, Zest Air has been cleared to mount flights to the city of Dammam in Saudi Arabia. In addition to being the country's main oil hub, the Middle Eastern city is also home to thousands of Filipino migrant workers. Philippine Airlines recently announced that it would be launching three weekly flights between Manila and Dammam this upcoming December.

Zest Air currently does not operate an aircraft capable of flying a route between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. In recent years, Alfredo Yao, Chairman of Zest Air, had indicated his desire to acquire Airbus A330 widebody aircraft to serve long haul routes but nothing official has materialized to date. However, with the recent investment from the Air Asia Group in Zest Air, the clearance could pave the way for the introduction of Air Asia's budget long haul brand, Air Asia X.
air asia x philippines
Image Source: Wikimedia
The long haul sub-brand of Air Asia is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with a fleet to ten A330 aircraft serving destinations in Asia and Oceania. Air Asia X is currently seeking to expand operations with its first base outside of Malaysia in Bangkok with a fleet of two A330 aircraft flying to Moscow as well as cities in Korea and Japan. Meanwhile, the carrier has an outstanding order with Airbus for fifteen new A330 aircraft and ten A350 aircraft.

The A330 aircraft will be used to increase frequencies on existing routes and to expand the airline's network by setting up new bases including the one in Bangkok and another possibly in Indonesia. The A350 order will likely be used on new routes to North America and Europe in Air Asia's second attempt to be the world's first long haul budget airline. "We believe the A350 aircraft will be an industry game changer that will allow us to dramatically operate with unprecedented unit costs for long haul flights to Europe and North America, opening up new tourism markets and exciting destinations," says Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of Air Asia X.
cebu pacific a330 singapore
Photo Source: Cebu Pacific
As for the Philippines, the government's keen interest to develop tourism, the thousands of overseas Filipino workers, and the current drive to expand the long haul network of Philippine carriers makes the country an attractive destination for a future Air Asia X base. With Cebu Pacific's upcoming launch of budget long haul flights to the Middle East, Air Asia likely won't want to leave its competitor alone in the market for too long. The new partnership with Zest gives Air Asia access to slots at Manila airport that it never had before which now opens the door to a wide range of possibilities. 

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific just commenced its first wide-body A330 aircraft service to Singapore on July 8. The A330 service to Seoul commenced a few days earlier.


  1. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!!

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  2. when they start to come over here in India?

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  5. Exciting news! This expansion opens up new travel opportunities, making the world more accessible than ever.


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