Saturday, July 12, 2014

Guam Eagerly Anticipates the Arrival of Cebu Pacific

The US territory and island community of Guam is eager for more flights to and from the Philippines after the US government lifted restrictions last month that previously banned Philippine carriers from expanding service to the island.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Philippine Airlines, the only Philippine carrier presently serving Guam, announced in May that it would be increasing its flights to Guam in October. PAL currently flies five times weekly between Guam and Manila using an Airbus A320 aircraft. On October 26, the carrier plans to increase the service to daily adding a flight on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

While the island is pleased to see increased service from Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific is the carrier that most are eager to see. As the Philippines' largest budget carrier, Filipinos home and abroad know the power of Cebu Pacific to bring affordable travel to new destinations and markets. Filipinos are currently the second largest ethnic group on the island of Guam, making up nearly 26 percent of the population with close to 50,000 Filipinos living on the island.

The entry of Cebu Pacific would not only stimulate the market in terms of tourism, easily growing the number of tourists travelling in both directions, but it will also provide affordable opportunities for overseas Filipinos residing on Guam  to travel home more frequently. A search for flights between Guam and Manila in September 2014 reveals that the lowest round-trip airfare available is $296 with United Airlines for the four-hour flight between Manila and Guam. Philippine Airlines' lowest available airfare was $337. The arrival of Cebu Pacific could easily see airfares drop anywhere from 10 to 35 percent.

With Cebu Pacific recently cleared by the US Department of Transportation to operate its own flights to the United States, it's only a matter of time before the budget carrier launches service to Guam. Local officials in Guam remain optimistic that they will see the entry of Cebu Pacific before the end of this year. In an interview with Guam's Pacific Daily News, Chuck Ada, Executive Manager of the Guam International Airport Authority revealed that the airport has had many continuing discussions with Cebu Pacific, demonstrating a firm interest in starting a service between Guam and the Philippines.

According to Ada, the recent permissions granted by the US Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation pave the way for service to begin before the end of the year. "We definitely expect to see results of this new opportunity and look forward to expansion in our air service portfolio with additional flights that not only will increase arrivals, but increase trade and business activity between Guam and the Philippines," said Ada.

While Cebu Pacific is eager to expand into the United States, Guam has a distinct advantage over other US destinations with its close proximity to the Philippines. Unlike destinations on the US mainland, Guam is the only destination that can readily be served by Cebu Pacific's fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft. Although Cebu Pacific does have the longer range Airbus A330 aircraft in its fleet, it can only reach as far as Hawaii, leaving mainland destinations out of range until a longer range aircraft can be acquired. As the Cebu Pacific fleet is primarily composed of A320 aircraft, this gives the carrier greater flexibility to launch flights to Guam at the earliest possible opportunity.

Meanwhile, residents on the island of Guam continue to eagerly anticipate the additional flights to and from the Philippines. "The federal government has opened the door for more flights to and from the Philippines," said Guam Governor Eddie Calvo. "I'm confident that in the near future, our island will see more travellers from the Philippines, and the Philippines will see more Guamanians visiting their home country."

United Airlines and Philippine Airlines are presently the only two carriers offering direct flights between the Philippines and Guam with all flights currently operating from Manila.

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