Senior representatives from Guam’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport and Guam Visitors Bureau joined forces with Cebu Pacific Air to celebrate the low-cost carrier’s new link between Manila and the US island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific during Routes Asia. The new route, Cebu Pacific’s first to the United States, will commence on March 15, 2016 and will be flown four times weekly using an Airbus A320.
The airline will be the only low-cost carrier flying directly between the Philippines and Guam, a market currently served on an up to daily basis by Philippine Airlines from Manila, as well as on an eleven times weekly basis by United Airlines as part of its Pacific network.
This expansion will see Cebu Pacific Air offering its trademark low fares to the sizeable Filipino community in Guam, which currently comprises about 26 per cent of the island's population, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book.
“It was in 2012 that Routes first provided us with the opportunity to meet Cebu Pacific Air and we are really excited to be making the final preparations for the launch of this new link from the carrier from Manila,” said Katherine Sgro, Board Director at A. B. Won Pat International Airport.
Recent data shows that the Manila – Guam route is relatively underserved, compared to other destinations with smaller Filipino populations. There are approximately 5,900 weekly seats currently available between Manila and Guam. Cebu Pacific Air’s entry into the market adds 1,440 weekly seats to this pool, further stimulating air traffic between the two countries further.
"Having Guam in our network sets us off on another expansion path across the Pacific. With the launch of Guam, we offer fares that are up to 83 per cent lower than other airlines. Fares this low can only mean more tourists to both countries, more Filipinos visiting home, and more opportunities for everyone," said Alexander Lao, Vice President Commercial Planning, Cebu Pacific Air during a sponsored lunch presentation at Routes Asia.
Guam is a true tropical island situated approximately 900 miles north of the equator and is just 32 miles long and between four and eight miles wide. This helps support a balanced yearly demand and the seasonality profile for the traffic between the Philippines and Guam is relatively flat, with very few peaks or troughs, although there is a lift in demand in the months of November and December
The island’s international gateway of Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport is currently linked to around 20 destinations with non-stop links to points across the Asia Pacific region from Sapporo, Japan in the north; Cairns, Australia in the south; Hong Kong in the west and as far afield as Honolulu in the East, its longest route.
Speaking to Routesonline, Lao highlighted that the airline, which celebrates its 20th anniversary during Routes Asia, is confident that the Guam launch will mirror the "Cebu Pacific effect" that other markets have experienced since it has introduced its low-cost model into the destination.
"The Cebu Pacific effect is when we are able to stimulate travel demand from the launch of a new route with our trademark lowest fares," he explained. "Our international markets of the Middle East, Australia and Japan were among our fastest growing routes in the first nine months of 2015 compared to the same period in the previous year. I am sure Guam Airports Authority are pleased to hear that and we hope to be able stimulate as much traffic as well."
The Manila-Guam service will depart at 3:45am and arrive in Guam at 10:15am. The Guam-Manila flight will depart Guam at 12:30pm and arrive in Manila at 2:55pm, providing excellent connection options to the Cebu Pacific Air domestic network at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, including the likes of Laoag, Iloilo and Cebu.
The massive initial fare reduction (just P2,500) highlighted by the airline was only for a short promotional period, but its starting fare of P7,197 is still up to 40 per cent lower compared to the average fares currently being charged on the route.
Around 1.3 million visitors were recorded in the US territory in the last calendar year. This continues to be dominated by the Japanese market, although numbers declined 9.2 per cent versus 2013. South Korea is the other significant international market, growing at a rate of 25.4 per cent, while there were also notable growth in arrivals from China and Russia.
The Philippines is currently the fourth largest O&D country market in and out of Guam behind Japan, South Korea and the US. An estimated 107,000 passengers flew between the Philippines and Guam last year, according to Sabre MIDT data, although this number has declined from a high in 2012 due to fluctuations in the schedule and aircraft deployment from Philippine Airlines on its route from Manila.