By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated April 11, 2014 – 12:02pm
MANILA, Philippines — Cebu Pacific Air chief executive Lance Gokongwei welcomed the Philippines’ aviation upgrade to Category 1 and the European Union’s lifting of the ban on the budget carrier.
“The entire Philippine aviation industry is very excited, particularly Cebu Pacific with two pieces of good news,” he said in an interview over ANC on Thursday night.
Gokongwei said, however, that Cebu Pacific will first mount flights to American islands in the Pacific such as Guam, Saipan and eventually, Hawaii, before the year ends.
“I think, given our fleet composition [of] Airbus 330s and Airbus 320s, I think the most likely initial routes … will be some place which is closer. We don’t have any aircraft that can reach the West Coast right now direct,” Gokongwei, who is also chairman of Robinsons Land, said.
“I think subject to all the regulatory approvals from the US and the Philippines, we’re potentially looking before the end of the year,” Gokongwei added
Flying to the European skies, however, will have to wait as Cebu Pacific’s fleets are not prepared for long-haul travel.
“I think that’s really a function of the fleet that we have and perhaps the market opportunity at this point,” Gokongwei admitted.
Gokongwei, however, revealed that the airline is preparing to extend budget deals similar to those it has been known for.
“We certainly are looking forward to offering a special $1 fare to US or €1 to Europe at some point in the future,” the tycoon said. The fares, however, are still subject to taxes.
Cebu Pacific will continue maintaining all-economy seats even when it starts flying to Western destinations as Gokongwei dismisses suggestions to make room for passengers who want to fly in business class.
“Our mission from the start when we founded this airline in 1998 is to make flying more affordable to everyone and more Filipinos, and part of the way we are able to make flying so affordable is we offer all-economy seating, we will not deviate from that mission,” Gokongwei said.
On Thursday, American aviation authorities have cleared Philippine airlines to increase flights to the United States after safety standards improved.
Officials from the European Union and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, meanwhile, have announced that Cebu Pacific Air, the country’s largest low-cost carrier, has been cleared to fly to Europe.