Filipino sharklet attack begins, Australia on menu
To say Cebu Air is going to expand into this market is wrong, considering it is going to compact up to almost 440 people into an A330-300 when it rolls up for its slice of Philippines-Australia traffic.
The Philippines low cost carrier Cebu Air has started its ‘sharklet attack’ on the SE Asia market taking delivery of its first A320 upgraded with the wing tip devices said to reduce fuel burn by 4% over longer flight stages.
It is far from irrelevant to Australia or its airlines.
On one hand it is successfully expanding its low cost brand in a region where Jetstar appears to have stalled, and on the other, it has said it intends to expand to Philippines-Australia routes in the medium term as it begins adding eight A330-300s to its fleet in the second half of this year.
The strength, so far, of its national brand versus the multi-national brands of Jetstar, Tiger and AirAsia flies in the face of some of the orthodoxy about the future of low cost operations in this hemisphere being trans-border in structure.
Cebu Air has been around a long time, well, since 1988, during which it killed all 104 people in DC-9 which was flown into a mountain in the Philippines in 1998. It has a fleet based on three types if we include the yet to enter service A330-300s, operating at least 34 A320 classics, and a small number of ATR-72-500s turbo-props, with 48 more A320 family jets on order including 30 of the higher tech NEO or new engine options for much later in the decade.
Much of the immediate fascination with Cebu Air focuses on its decision to become the world’s tightest, densest and presumably most insufferably uncomfortable operator of an A330-300 by filling them with a single class format of ‘just over’ 400 seats.
The first service with this exquisitely tight packed A330 cabin will begin in October between Dubai and Manila. There are claims that the actual seat count could be ‘very close’ to the 440 limit.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.