Cebu Pacific Expected to Launch Saudi Arabia Flights before 2015

Cebu Pacific, the nation's largest low-cost carrier, is expected to launch flights before the end of the year to Dammam and Riyadh, according to a recent report released by the Centre for Aviation. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the key target markets for Cebu Pacific's long-haul network because of the large population of overseas Filipino workers. 

Copyright Photo: Lester Tangco/PPSG
According to the Centre for Aviation, Cebu Pacific already has the traffic rights necessary in order to operate up to seven weekly flights to Riyadh, and unlimited flights to Dammam, an open skies designated airport by Saudi Arabian authorities. Though the carrier could use a portion of its seven weekly entitlements to serve Jeddah, that decision seems unlikely given that the airline sees larger markets in Dammam and Riyadh.

Alex Reyes, General Manager of Cebu Pacific's Long Haul Division noted that the high concentration of overseas Filipino workers attracted the airline to consider expanding operations further in the Middle East. However, the carrier will have to sustain fierce competition from rival carrier, Philippine Airlines.

Philippine Airlines has responded aggressively to the launch of Cebu Pacific's long-haul division since its first flight last year. At the same time that Cebu Pacific entered the Dubai market, its first long-haul destination, Philippine Airlines responded with new flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In addition, PAL launched services to Riyadh and Dammam ahead of Cebu Pacific. 

However, in spite of stiff competition from Gulf carriers and Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific seems ready and prepared to weather the storm. According to the Centre for Aviation, Philippine Airlines is the carrier most likely to retreat as it continues to be held back by a dispute over the future ownership structure of the flag carrier.

Of the 21 weekly entitlements permitted in the Saudi Arabia-Philippines Air Services Agreement, Philippine Airlines holds fourteen entitlements, while Cebu Pacific holds just seven. It is most likely that Cebu Pacific will use all seven entitlements to Riyadh, though the carrier is expected to introduce service before the end of this year most likely with three weekly flights each to Riyadh and Dammam aboard its 436-seat Airbus A330-300.

According to Reyes, Cebu Pacific can launch Saudi Arabia flights within a few weeks from the date that the carrier gets the approval of regulators to begin ticket sales. The airline is hopeful to launch the new routes by November or December in time for the peak holiday season. 

When launched, Dammam and Riyadh will become the third and fourth destination for Cebu Pacific in the Middle East. The carrier currently operates service to Dubai and is planning to launch flights to Kuwait on September 2 with three weekly flights. However, Philippine Airlines is also due to increase the frequency of its Riyadh and Dammam flights, with plans to add new flights to Jeddah three times weekly. 

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific has been considering supplementing its Dubai service with flights to Abu Dhabi. However, the carrier now sees more potential in Sharjah, due to the feeder opportunities with partner carrier, Air Arabia. But Cebu Pacific will need to secure additional traffic rights to the United Arab Emirates before any such expansion could proceed. 

Now that Cebu Pacific realises the lucrative opportunities available by pursuing feeder traffic and connections with partner low-cost carriers in the Gulf region, it may pursue partnerships in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In Kuwait, Cebu Pacific could consider partnering with Jazeera Airways, which features 15 routes from Kuwait, while in Saudi Arabia, Cebu Pacific could partner with flynas. 

In the meantime, Cebu Pacific is focused on launching its newest long-haul flights to Kuwait and Sydney, Australia next month. Sydney flights will begin on September 9, bringing the carrier's total number of long-haul destinations to three cities after Dubai and Kuwait. However, according to the Centre for Aviation, Cebu Pacific's new long-haul service is still too new to determine if it will be a winner in the long-term. 

1 comment:

  1. waiting and hoping this month may update na...


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