|Image Source: Australian Aviation|
With the introduction of the new Sydney route, Cebu Pacific becomes the only low-cost carrier operating between the two countries after the departure of Jetstar Airways, which previously served Manila from Darwin.
The new flights depart Manila at 12:15am, arriving in Sydney at 10:05am. The return trip departs Sydney at 11:35am, arriving back in Manila at 5:30pm. Cebu Pacific intends to increase frequency on the route in time for the peak Christmas season beginning on December 10, 2014 when it introduces a fifth weekly flight scheduled to operate on Wednesdays.
The inaugural flight to Sydney was greeted by the traditional water cannon salute. According to Alex Reyes, General Manager of Cebu Pacific's long haul division, the low-cost carrier is keen to work with budget carrier Tigerair Australia, after Cebu Pacific successfully built a relationship with Tigerair Singapore.
"Tigerair Australia would of course be a natural partner," said Reyes. "We have had discussions with Tiger in Australia." He added that many of Tigerair Singapore's destinations are now available for sale on the Cebu Pacific website as part of an interline agreement. In addition, Tigerair Philippines is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cebu Pacific, having been acquired earlier this year in a deal valued at $15 million.
Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific remains positive regarding the possibility of an expanded bilateral agreement between the Philippines and Australia that would enable the carrier to operate daily service to Sydney, while expanding to additional cities in Australia. "Our understanding is that there has been an exchange of letters already from both sides," said Reyes. "Both sides are willing, I think it is just down to fixing a date."
Philippine Airlines currently operates the largest number of flights between the Philippines and Australia serving a number of cities from Manila including Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, and Brisbane. In addition, it is believed that PAL will be reinstating flights to Perth later this year.
Cebu Pacific operates its flights to Australia using its 436-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft. According to Reyes, the majority of tickets sold on the Sydney route have originated in Australia, with a number of travellers eager to visit the Philippines. "Forward bookings are looking good," Reyes added.
Currently, there are approximately 300,000 Filipinos residing in Australia. Cebu Pacific expects the new route to Sydney to boost tourism between the Philippines and Australia. "Australia and Philippines trade has been growing quite robustly, but we feel quite strongly that tourism potential both ways is not yet fully maximized," said Reyes. "There is still a lot of potential for additional traffic between the Philippines and Australia."