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Cebu Pacific eyes more flights, new routes to Japan

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Cebu Pacific
Cebu Pacific is looking to launch new routes this year.

NAGOYA — Cebu Pacific is keen on opening new routes to Japan this year, as the number of Filipino tourists to the country continues to grow.

Cebu Pacific Country Manager for Japan Tomohiko Matsumoto told reporters on Saturday the volume of Filipino visitors to Japan has been rapidly increasing, with an 70,000 to 80,000 annual visitor growth since 2014.

“Cebu Pacific is eyeing Japan as one of the key international markets,” Mr. Matsumoto said, noting the budget carrier’s total number of inbound and outbound passengers to Japan reached 1.1 million in 2018.

He said the airline is in talks to open new routes to other destinations such as Haneda, which services the greater Tokyo area, and Sapporo.

“Of course Sapporo is one of them. (In) Sapporo…aircraft capability is limited. Because until neo (Airbus A321 new engine option) is coming, we’ll not be able to fly from Manila to Sapporo directly because the flying hours is too long for the (Airbus A320) or 321ceo (current engine option)…The neo is just delivered last month, so that could (make it) physically possible to fly (to Sapporo),” Mr. Matsumoto said.

A flight from Manila to Sapporo takes over five hours.

Mr. Matsumoto said the new Airbus A321neo has about 50 seats more than their A320s, enabling them to carry more passengers without adding frequencies. The carrier expects to receive six A321neos this year.

“[W]e are eyeing increasing (frequencies of flights between the Philippines and Japan), but currently (in) Manila NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport), the slots are very tight. Actually (what) we are doing (is) more (of an) aircraft upgrade,” Mr. Matsumoto said.

In the case of Haneda, he said the Philippine government has to conduct air talks with the Japanese government to expand the frequencies, as competing airlines currently take up all available frequencies.

“[T]hat has to be negotiated by government-to-government. It’s a traffic right issue right now. So our head office has to lobby the Philippine government to have a negotiation with the Japanese government to have the rights. But we of course like to, because Haneda is most convenient,” Mr. Matsumoto said.

Haneda is one of two primary airports serving the Tokyo area, after Narita. Haneda International Airport is closer to central Tokyo, compared to Narita.

At present, Cebu Pacific offers flights from the Philippines to Osaka, Narita, Nagoya and Fukuoka in Japan. — Denise A. Valdez