Asian low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air is to launch the first regular scheduled air link between the Philippines and the popular Thai leisure destination of Phuket when it inaugurates a new direct flight from Manila on August 16, 2013. The new link will be flown on a three times weekly basis using an Airbus A320 with a late evening departure from the Filipino capital and an overnight return from the popular Thai island destination.
Although Cebu Pacific is one of five carriers to currently offer flights between the Philippines and Thailand all of the existing capacity is currently centred on routes serving Bangkok. It has links to the Thai capital from Cebu, Clark and Manila, while national carriers Philippines Airlines and Thai Airways International also serve the market between the two capitals, a route also flown by Kuwait Airways as a continuation of its flights from Kuwait City. Elsewhere, Seair – South East Asian Airlines, an affiliate of Tiger Airways, provides direct services to Bangkok from Clark International.
Cebu Pacific first launched flights to Bangkok in March 2007, initially from Manila, adding a link from Clark in October 2008. It also introduced services from Cebu in 2008 but these were terminated the same year, but were reintroduced in December 2012. It now offers 12 flights per week to Bangkok from Manila and twice weekly from both Cebu and Clark International.
In 2012, an estimated 600,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between the Philippines and Thailand, up 9.7 per cent on the previous year. The majority of this demand is unsurprisingly, due to the direct flights, serving Bangkok but around 12,000 passengers year fly between the Philippines and Phuket on connecting air services, a massive 86.7 per cent originating or ending their journeys in Manila. According to AirportIS, Jetstar Asia Airways currently has the largest share of this traffic via Singapore, although there is also notable passenger flows with Thai Airways International via Bangkok and Tiger Airways via Singapore.
“Cebu Pacific is proud to make the island of Phuket accessible to even more travelers,” said Candice Iyog, VP Marketing and Distribution, Cebu Pacific. Located approximately 860 kilometers south of Bangkok, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It is widely known for its dive sites and abundant beaches, making it a popular location for Hollywood movies. The Phrom Thep Cape and Wat Chalong Temple are also popular attractions, as well as snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing and yachting.
“Aside from Phuket, Cebu Pacific also pioneered direct low-cost flights from Manila to Siem Reap in Cambodia, Hanoi in Vietnam, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and Bali in Indonesia. All can be considered honeymoon destinations, as well as backpacker destinations,” added Iyog.
Cebu Pacific currently offers links to 22 international destinations: Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Brunei, Busan, Dubai, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Incheon, Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Osaka, Phuket, Shanghai, Siem Reap, Singapore, Taipei and Xiamen. It is due to start flights between Cebu and Masbate from June 1, 2013; from Cebu to Taipei from July 5, 2013 as well as its first long-haul flights between Manila and Dubai from October 7, 2013 using its new A330s. The budget carrier currently operates fleet of 43 aircraft, comprising ten Airbus A319s, 25 A320s and eight ATR-72-500s. Between now and 2021 it will take delivery of 17 more A320s, 30 Airbus A321neos and four A330s.
Meanwhile in the local market, the low-cost carrier is to also boost domestic connectivity to and from Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost island archipelago in the Philippines. From June 15, 2013 the carrier will add a further two weekly flights between Cebu and Zamboanga increasing the frequency of the route to six times weekly, while from July 1, 2013 three additional rotations will be added on the Manila – Zamboanga and Zamboanga – Tawi Tawi routes bringing total flights to 24 times weekly and daily, respectively. Additionally, four extra weekly rotations will be introduced between Cebu and Davao from July 1, 2013, bringing total flights on the route to 32 weekly.
“Cebu Pacific continues to develop its routes and hubs in Mindanao, to further benefit Philippine tourism and trade. These additional flights mean more choices for our guests, be it same-day returns for business meetings or more opportunities for travel due to seat sales,” explained Candice Iyog.
In the first quarter of this year, Cebu Pacific has grown its domestic passengers to and from Zamboanga by 17 per cent, as well as its Davao hub by 20 per cent, according to company data. Travel between the Visayas and Mindanao also grew by 13 per cent, while travel within Mindanao grew by 45 per cent. This jump in demand can be attributed to Cebu Pacific introducing multiple flights from Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro in the fourth quarter of last year.