CEBU PACIFIC may open longer routes from regional airports to North Asia and Australia by 2024 as it expects to start receiving its order of Airbus A321XLR (Xtra Long Range) in four years.

Lance Y. Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer, said the company is looking at using the new aircraft to fly from its hubs in the Visayas and Mindanao to destinations in North Asia, Australia and Brunei.

“If we get the A321XLRs in 2023, 2024, that gives us possibilities to fly more thinner and longer routes, particularly the tourists spots in VisMin connecting to North Asia and Australia and Brunei,” he told reporters in Pasay City on Monday.

“You can do easily the kinds of Cebu to Beijing, Cebu to Seoul. Those kinds of routes,” he added.

At the 2019 Paris Air Show last month, Cebu Pacific announced that it placed a fresh order of 10 Airbus A321XLRs, which it said could fly up to 11 hours. The A321XLR is described as the longest range single-aisle airliner, delivering a range of up to 4,700 nautical miles (8,700 kilometers).

Mr. Gokongwei noted that while there is an opportunity to add new destinations for long-haul flights, there are no plans for now. Cebu Pacific’s long-haul routes are limited to Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney, and all are flying out of Manila.

Cebu Pacific currently has five hubs in the Visayas and Mindanao, namely in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo and Cagayan De Oro.

It offers flights to Narita (Tokyo), Incheon (Seoul), Macau, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore from Cebu; to Singapore from Davao; to Hong Kong and Singapore from Iloilo; and to Incheon from Kalibo. The Cagayan De Oro hub doesn’t offer international flights yet.

“The theme is we should fly direct, avoiding Manila… It’s the development of other airports that’s made that possible,” Mr. Gokongwei said, referring to the possibility of opening more direct flights from regional gateways with the A321XLRs.

Cebu Pacific also ordered five A320neos (new engine option) and 16 A330neos.

Mr. Gokongwei had earlier said the order of neos is expected to replace the company’s fleet of Airbus A320ceos (current engine option), as the new aircraft are “more fuel efficient and carry 20 more seats.”

“The objective here is really to assist in increasing capacity in slot-congested routes. Beyond that, we expect that the incremental A330s will play the same role, flying primarily regionals, particularly the three- to four-hour routes, particularly to Japan, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong. Those type of routes,” he said last week.

Cebu Pacific currently has a fleet of 72 aircraft, composed of two A321neos, seven A321ceos, one A320neo, 33 A320ceos, eight A330ceos, eight ATR 72-500s and 13 ATR 72-600s.

The carrier’s listed operator Cebu Air, Inc. is setting its capital expenditures for the year at about P27.1 billion, which will be dedicated largely to aircraft acquisitions.

The company posted a net income of P3.43 billion in the first quarter, up 138.4% from the same period last year due to a growth in passenger volume and higher average fares. — Denise A. Valdez