Cebu Pacific: US Flights First, European Flights After

Philippine travellers could soon be enjoying Cebu Pacific promo fares to Honolulu as the airline makes plans to begin its first flights to the United States putting the nation's largest budget carrier in direct competition with Philippine Airlines.
cebu pacific us flights
Copyright Photo: Lester Tangco/PPSG
According to Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei, the recent news of the US upgrade to Category 1 status and the lifting of the European ban signifies exciting times ahead for the Philippine aviation industry. "The entire Philippine aviation industry is very excited, particularly Cebu Pacific with two pieces of good news," said Gokongwei.

Cebu Pacific is planning to launch flights to American island destinations in the Pacific including Guam, Saipan, and Hawaii before the end of 2014. However, it will need to acquire new long-haul aircraft before it can begin services to Europe and mainland United States.

"Given our fleet composition of Airbus 330's and Airbus 320's, I think the most likely initial routes will be some place which is closer," said Gokongwei. "We don't have any aircraft that can reach the West Coast right now direct." He added that subject to regulatory approvals in the United States and the Philippines, the airline is targeting the launch of its US flights before the end of this year.

cebu pacific saipan flights
Image Source: Philippine Star
Cebu Pacific will be taking delivery of up to 50 new Airbus aircraft in the coming years. However, most of the aircraft currently on order are single-aisle aircraft targeted for domestic and regional routes. Gokongwei said that the budget carrier is presently studying its current fleet and seeking new options as the Airbus 330 can only fly from nine to eleven hours putting US West Coast and European destinations out of range. 

Last year, Alex Reyes, General Manager of Cebu Pacific's long-haul division, indicated that the airline was currently evaluating the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787. Prior to the arrival of Cebu Pacific's 436-seat Airbus A330 aircraft, the entire fleet was composed of A320 family aircraft carrying fewer passengers and capable only of short flights. 

"What has happened in the aviation industry is there is a next generation of aircraft coming on stream," said Reyes. "All of these technologies promise additional fuel savings. We always study what is available out there." He added that the acquisition of either the A350 or the Boeing 787 was "definitely possible."

While the acquisition of new long range aircraft remains unclear, what is certain is that Cebu Pacific intends to maintain its all-economy configuration even when it begins flying to Western destinations. Gokongwei dismissed suggestions to make room for Business Class passengers. 

Once Cebu Pacific has acquired new long range aircraft, the airline plans to continue its expansion into the European Union to access the large market of European tourists and one million Filipinos currently working and living in Europe.  "This network is about to get even bigger," said Gokongwei. 

cebu pacific hawaii flights
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Although Cebu Pacific has not finalised any plans for European routes, Gokongwei indicated that London, Amsterdam, and Paris are among the possibilities but it will have to wait for the appropriate time. "I think that's really a function of the fleet that we have and perhaps the market opportunity at this point," Gokongwei added.  

When that time eventually does come, Cebu Pacific intends to continue extending budget deals similar to the one peso promos that it has become known for. "We certainly are looking forward to offering a special $1 fare to the US or €1 to Europe at some point in the future." However, such fares will still be subject to government taxes and fuel surcharges with additional fees for ancillary services.

The new routes to Guam and Honolulu will put Cebu Pacific in direct competition with Philippine Airlines. Cebu Pacific's entry into the long-haul market last year led to record low fares being offered on the airline's only long distance route between Manila and Dubai. 

"Our mission from the start when we founded this airline in 1998 is to make flying more affordable to everyone and more Filipinos," said Gokongwei. "Part of the way we are able to make flying so affordable is we offer all-economy seating, we will not deviate from that mission."


  1. Any plans flying to Australia??? Darwin, Melbourne or Sydney? All PAL flights are ridiculously expensive!

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