CEBU PACIFIC is planning to expand its Sydney operations this year as it continued to dominate the route in the first four months of 2017.

“We’re intending to expand our operations to Australia, we’re studying it and you’ll be hearing about it soonest… We’re already doing the preparation,” Cebu Pacific Vice-President for Corporate Affairs Paterno S. Mantaring, Jr. said in a media briefing on Monday.

The Gokongwei-led airline expressed interest in increasing the frequency between Manila and Sydney, noting strong demand for this route.

Cebu Pacific has seven weekly flight entitlements to Australia, four of which are currently being used for its Manila-Sydney operations.

“We have been granted allocations by the Philippine government to operate I think at seven flights to Australia. Right now, we’re operating 4 times a week,” Mr. Mantaring said.

The decision to mount more flights comes as the budget carrier continued to dominate the Manila-Sydney route, both in terms of passenger and cargo services.

Citing data from Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), Cebu Pacific said it flew 59,953 passengers in the January to April period. This represented 41.7% of the total market share for the Manila-Sydney route, the highest among the three carriers plying the route. Its load factor was at an average 80% for the first four months of 2017.

Its closest competitor on the route, Philippine Airlines, captured 33.5% market share, while Qantas Airways recorded 24.8%.

Year on year, total passenger volume for the January to April period for all three carriers flying the Manila-Sydney route reached 143,765, up 12% versus the 128,352 passengers flown in the same period in 2016.

BITRE is an agency under Australia’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, which “provides economic analysis, research and statistics on infrastructure, transport and regional development issues.” The bureau holds data and statistics on the aviation industry.

For cargo service between Manila and Sydney, Cebu Pacific said it had 47.4% market share of the total 3,114 tons of cargo carried on that route.

In April, Cebu Pacific said it flew 16,441 passengers, representing 41.8% of the total market share for the route. It also grabbed a 43.8% share of the total 789 tons of cargo carried during the same month.

“Since opening the Sydney route in 2014, we are proud to have contributed to the growth of trade and tourism between the Philippines and Australia… Sydney is one of the top international routes in and out of the Philippines. The strong growth of our Manila-Sydney route bodes well for our future expansion plans in the Australian market,” Mr. Mantaring said.

Cebu Pacific said the additional flights on the Manila-Sydney route will use A-330 aircraft.

“We’ll concentrate first on the Manila-Sydney [route],” the Cebu Pacific official said when asked if Cebu Pacific is also looking to mount flights to other Australian cities.

Mr. Mantaring noted that its dominance in the route could have been driven by the relatively low fares it offers for its Manila-Sydney flights.

Cebu Pacific currently offers the most number of seats between Manila and Sydney, operating up to five non-stop services between Sydney and Manila, departing every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Sydney at 11:35 a.m. and arriving in Manila at 5:50 p.m. The flights from Manila to Sydney, on the other hand, depart at 12:05 a.m. and arrive in Sydney at 10:05 a.m. — Imee Charlee C. Delavin

A Cebu Pacific plane taxis on the runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in this file photo taken Oct. 8, 2010. — AFP