By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

LANCE Y. GOKONGWEI, president of Cebu Pacific operator Cebu Air, Inc. — BW FILE PHOTO

CEBU PACIFIC said it is eyeing to expand its hubs in Clark and Cebu as it continues to boost its fleet with a target of 83 aircraft by end-2022.

Lance Y. Gokongwei, president of Cebu Pacific operator Cebu Air, Inc., said the budget carrier will be adding “a lot of frequency” in its hubs in Cebu and Clark.

“In Clark, we’re going to try to connect the dots so that a lot of North Asia will be able to fly into the south without having to connect through Manila… I think in the next two to three years, you’ll see a lot of flights into Japan, (South) Korea and China from Clark,” he told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the JG Summit Holdings, Inc. stockholders’ meeting last week.

For Cebu, Mr. Gokongwei said they will ramp up the frequencies of its existing routes, which currently connect the city to both Japan and South Korea. Cebu is a popular destination for Japanese and Korean tourists.

“The (Airbus A321neos), we put them into Manila. Then we pull out the (Airbus A320s) and put them to Clark or to Cebu,” he said.

The carrier is currently on fleet expansion mode and expects the delivery of 12 new aircraft this year, namely six Airbus A321neos (new engine option), five A320neos and one ATR 72-600.

Mr. Gokongwei said in the long term, what Cebu Pacific wants is to make its Clark operations as big as its Manila operations. “We have to complete the Bacolods, the Iloilos, the Taclobans, the CDOs. Whatever we have in Manila, we’ll replicate in Clark,” he said, but noted it may take about 15 years from now.

In a Tuesday e-mail to BusinessWorld, Cebu Pacific said its hubs in Clark and Cebu have already seen rapid growth since the start of the year, both in terms of new routes and frequency of flights.

For the Clark hub, the carrier already increased its capacity to and from Caticlan by 231% after shifting to use the bigger Airbus A320 starting March 31 from the 78-seater ATR 72-600.

It also noted it will be opening daily from its Clark hub going to and from Iloilo, Bacolod and Narita by Aug. 9, and daily flights to and from Puerto Princesa by Oct. 9.

For its Cebu hub, the airline noted it already added frequency to its flights going to Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete, Siargao, Iloilo, Caticlan, Ozamiz and Zamboanga by an average of 63% since April 15.

“Flights between Manila and Cebu had likewise increased 24%. The increase in flights from its Cebu hub is on top of its six-times weekly Cebu-Shanghai and Shanghai-Cebu routes which began on April 15, 2019,” it added.

Cebu Pacific currently has flights from Clark to Cebu, Caticlan, Tagbilaran, Davao, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong.

In its Cebu hub, the carrier flies to and from Bacolod, Caticlan, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Calbayog, Camiguin, Clark, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Legazpi, Ozamis, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Siargao, Surigao, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo (Narita), Singapore and Incheon.

Listed Cebu Air 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 average fares.