Low-cost Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific has signed an agreement with Swiss-based IPR Conversions Ltd. to convert two of the airline’s ATR 72-500 passenger aircraft into dedicated cargo aircraft.
This marks the first foray of Cebu Pacific in the operation of specialized aircraft to transport cargo, the airline said in a statement.
“We will be able to offer cargo capacity that no other carrier in the Philippines can provide,” Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said.
“With the freighter aircraft, we will further support the growing needs of the logistics industry, especially as the Philippines’ e-commerce businesses expand rapidly and look for faster delivery schedules,” he added.
Cebu Pacific expects to receive the first of the two converted aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2018. The cargo aircraft will continue to be operated through the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, CebGo.
IPR Conversions, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is one of the leading ATR freighter conversion service providers in the world. To convert Cebu Pacific’s passenger aircraft into dedicated air freighters, a large cargo door will be installed to allow standard containers and pallets used in aviation to be loaded. The aircraft will have space for seven AKE unit load device containers, and can carry more than seven tons of cargo.
Both aircraft will be converted at the facility of Sabena Technics DNR S.A.S. in Dinard, France. Sabena is one of France’s leading maintenance and modification services (MRO) providers for both civilian and military aircraft.
With a longer body to fit in more freight, an increased wingspan, and more powerful turboprop engines, the ATR aircraft is ideal for the fast transport of high-value and time-sensitive commodities such as marine products, computing equipment, and even heavy machinery to various points across the country, Cebu Pacific said.
The aircraft is suited to landing and taking off at airports with runways of less than 1.2 kilometers long—a distance that is too short for jet aircraft. Only about one-third of the 90 airports in the Philippines can land jets.
Currently utilizing the belly space of its passenger aircraft fleet, Cebu Pacific said it has about a 50% market share of domestic air cargo. Its cargo services have grown considerably, with revenues growing 29% to P4.6 billion in 2017, and 26% to P1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Sale of stake in 1Aviation
Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific said it sold 60% of its shares in wholly owned subsidiary 1Aviation Groundhandling Services Corporation (1Aviation) to Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions, Inc. (PAGSS) and Jefferson G. Cheng.
Cheng is the president of PAGSS, which provides ground-handling services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. PAGSS services with several airlines, including Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.
“Lance Y. Gokongwei, Chairman and President of Cebu Air, Inc., welcomed this development as this investment by Mr. Cheng and PAGSS brings decades of experience in ground handling for the benefit of airline passengers,” Cebu Pacific said.
The Securities and Exchange Commission last March approved the incorporation of 1Aviation after Manila International Airport Authority did not renew the contract of MIASCOR Ground Handling Corp. due to incidents of luggage theft involving the latter’s employees.
MIAA’s contract with MIASCOR ended on April 21.