Middle East Air Fares on the Decline as Cebu Pacific and PAL Compete

The introduction of Cebu Pacific as the first low cost carrier into the Philippine-Middle East market promised a steep decline in airfares by as much as 30%. But with the entry of Philippine Airlines and PAL Express, competition is heating up which will give the well established full service Gulf carriers a run for their money.

philippine airlines dubai
Copyright Photo: Juan Natividad/PPSG
The fare wars have already began in a battle to win over the lucrative Philippine overseas foreign worker market. Cebu Pacific and PAL Express are both undercutting fares of full service carrier Emirates in a quest to carve a dent in the Dubai-based airline's well established presence on the Manila-Dubai route. Emirates was recently named the top airline in the world at the 2013 SkyTrax World Airline awards. The nearest Philippine carrier was Philippine Airlines who ranked in 90th place. 

Both PAL Express and Cebu Pacific are slashing round-trip airfares by nearly half on the Manila-Dubai route. The three way competition over the busy corridor will begin in November 2013 when all three carriers will be offering service between Manila and Dubai. 

Cebu Pacific is offering fares as low as P24,500 round trip while PAL Express is quoting approximately P27,700. Emirates, the only full service carrier operating the route is not feeling threatened by the Philippine budget carriers and is maintaining its airfares at just over P56,000 round trip. 

But it is important for consumers to consider that the pricing difference is highly reflective in the services offered. Cebu Pacific's airfares do not include any checked luggage, on-board meals, or in-flight entertainment. Passengers will also face a tight squeeze for the nine hour flight on board Cebu Pacific's A330 aircraft which is the most densely configured aircraft of its type in the entire world.  The airline plans to charge P500 for each hot meal served. Drinks including water will also cost extra although the airline is including a water with the purchase of a meal. The airline will also be charging an additional P1,500 for each checked bag not weighing in excess of 15 kilograms.

PAL Express seems to offer the most competitive proposition with a fare similar to Cebu Pacific's but with the inclusion of 10 kilograms of checked luggage, one meal, and one snack. That won't just be offered on the Dubai route but on all of the carrier's upcoming Middle Eastern services.

For those who choose to pay extra to fly full service carrier, Emirates. You won't be disappointed. In addition to flying the top rated airline in the world, you will also be treated to top rated service and comfort even in economy class. In addition to a full selection of meals, generous baggage allowance, and comfortable seating with ample room, each passenger will also be able to enjoy a modern personal entertainment system at each seat. That is in addition to a number of other perks but only if you are willing to pay a premium for it.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines has already engaged in a dogfight on its upcoming Manila to Abu Dhabi route which is scheduled to begin on October 1. The airline has slashed the standard economy fare by half against competing carrier Etihad Airways. That is in spite of Etihad being a PAL codeshare partner.

The expansion into the Middle East continues for Philippine Airlines in December as the airline opens up new routes to three Saudi Arabian cities on December 1.

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