Cebu Pacific network to surpass pre-pandemic levels by year-end

Photo from Cebu Pacific.
  • Cebu Pacific’s system-wide network is forecast to surpass its pre-pandemic capacity in the fourth quarter of this year
  • Domestic capacity will continue to exceed pre-pandemic levels, while international capacity is seen to be at about 93%
  • By year’s end, Cebu Pacific expects to fly to 60 destinations through over 100 routes and at least 2,700 weekly flights
  • Starting January 2024, Cebu Pacific will inspect its A320/321 NEO aircraft with Pratt and Whitney engines, leading to the grounding of 10 planes in January and an expected increase to 20 throughout 2024

Cebu Pacific (CEB) anticipates sustained financial and capacity growth in 2024, projecting its system-wide network to surpass the pre-pandemic capacity by the fourth quarter of this year.

CEB flew four million domestic passengers in the third quarter of 2023, a 5% year-on-year (YoY) increase, already surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the low-cost carrier said in a statement.

International passengers rose by 228% YoY to 1.3 million, with increased connectivity to North Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

For the same quarter, the airline recorded revenues of P23.3 billion, a 39% YoY increase and 23% higher than Q3 2019. Shifts in school calendars contributed to heightened travel demand, resulting in a net income of P1.3 billion, reversing last year’s loss of P2.5 billion, as well as Q3 2019’s net loss of P384 million.

“Going into the fourth quarter, we remain optimistic as we saw our domestic market share at 55% in October despite challenges on fleet availability,” CEO Michael Szucs said.

“Aside from that, we expect that by the end of the year, our system-wide network will be at 103% of pre-pandemic levels; domestic will continue to exceed pre-pandemic levels, while international is seen to be at about 93%,” he added.

By year’s end, the airline plans to serve 60 destinations, with over 100 routes and at least 2,700 weekly flights.

CEB projects a 5% to 8% seat capacity growth in 2024 despite some aircraft being grounded for early inspections of Pratt and Whitney (P&W) engines. Szucs assured proactive measures, exploring new and used aircraft and leases to ensure operational resilience.

The airline, having received 19 aircraft in 2023, aims to end the year with 76 and plans to increase the fleet to 92 in 2024.

Starting January 2024, CEB will inspect A320/321 NEO aircraft with P&W engines. Although not a safety concern, 10 aircraft are expected to be grounded initially, with the number reaching 20 by 2024. The airline has adjusted flight schedules, implemented standby coverage, and is considering a short-term wet lease from Bul Air, a charter company of Bulgaria Air.

READ: Engine issues to cut Cebu Pacific fleet growth in 2024

They have also upgraded their customer support with better recovery options and policies, strengthening both on-ground and online customer communication and engagement.

Additionally, CEB awaits proposals from Airbus and Boeing for 100 to 150 narrowbody jets before 2023 ends, marking a significant commitment to the Philippine aviation industry.

Szucs acknowledges challenges in 2024 and 2025 but remains optimistic about the long-term economic prospects, citing plans to privatize NAIA, develop the Bulacan airport, and enhance regional airports for improved connectivity.