Cebu Pacific eyes Zamboanga-Sandakan route

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DAVAO CITY — Cebu Pacific is looking at flights between Zamboanga City in Mindanao and Sandakan in Sabah among the new routes that will be served by the new aircraft that will be delivered beginning November.

“The launching of the Zamboanga-Sandakan route is still in the pipeline,” Cebu Pacific Director for Corporate Communications Charo Logarta-Lagamon said in an interview.

“But nothing is final yet because as we know it is also a matter of making sure that all the other requirements to operate commercial air service like for example the customs, immigration, and for quarantine. Although the Zamboanga-Sandakan ferry is available already, but for air travel the requirements are stricter,” she added.

Cebu Pacific has an order of 32 Airbus A321neo, five A320neo, two A321ceo (current engine option) and six ATR 72-600 aircraft.

Ms. Lagamon said they expect to receive eight to nine new planes annually until 2022.

The budget carrier is also eyeing the development of more routes within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

“The challenge is how do you develop the routes within BIMP-EAGA because our economies are so similar, even for tourism it’s the same… nonetheless the desire is there and everyone wants to push for more air routes, particularly Indonesia, they really want to push,” Ms. Lagamon said.

She said there is really a demand, noting Cebu Pacific’s existing flights to Bali and Jakarta have an average seat load factor of about 77% to 78%.

One strategy for developing new international routes is using Cebu as a hub with the expansion of its connections to other local airports.

Cebu Pacific currently flies from Cebu to Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

“Let us say you are flying from Davao and you want to go to Japan, you go via Cebu, you just have to change aircraft in Cebu and you have the options how long you want to stay in Cebu… The connecting flights are more flexible and the fare is cheaper easily by about 15%, if bundled,” she said.

She explained that other international airports like the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City still does not generate enough passenger traffic to merit new international routes.

“The flights need to be as full as possible and for Davao alone, it is not enough to fill up the flights, so what we did, we are developing our Cebu hub because most people in VisMin (Visayas-Mindanao) would prefer flying to Cebu than in Manila,” she said. — Maya M. Padillo