Jan 22, 2013

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.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

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.

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8 thoughts on “Filipino sharklet attack begins, Australia on menu

  1. Cat on a PC©

    Love to get bumped off a 440 seat A333 if it’s overweight. When the passengers pass the hat to entice me off, I could get enough to fly business class just about anywhere!

  2. johnb78

    Given the service is targeted almost solely at expat Filipinos, overweight = unlikely.

  3. Jono Belth

    Wikipedia: “The A330-300 carries 295 passengers in a three-class cabin layout, 335 in two-class, or 440 in a single-class layout”.

    So what is your problem with that? It doesn’t compromise your legroom. It just removed the business class cabin.

    And also, yes there was a crash but that was long time ago and those fleet of DC9s are long gone. As with other great carriers of the world, sometimes accidents do happen.

    And oh, the chief of Cebu Air is a true blue Aussie by the name of Garry Kingshott. If that would lessen your animosity.

    As with Jetstar, there is nowhere in the world it could compete with Asian airlines as long as it pays “dollar” on overhead.

  4. Ben Sandilands


    It’s not a matter on animosity but neutrality. The reality is that airlines are moving inexorably toward matching seats to the certification limit, which involves a seat pitch 7.5 cms less that anyone will have experienced in the tightest seats on Qantas and Virgin, or 5 cms less than most of the seats in Tiger and Jetstar single aisle jets.

    Cebu Pacific has also killed. That’s the reality too. And it is successfully on all reports resisting the trans border low cost franchises of Tiger, AirAsia, and Jetstar.

    And its coming to Australia. And I might add, as I have earlier in other posts, the Philippines is finding its place under the economic sun and starting to generate an immense expansion in air travel.

    This is what I want Plane Taking to be about. What is, as distinct from what is massaged by PR.

  5. Jono Belth


    Doesn’t matter if the legroom is few cm shorter. Australia has a strict government aviation authority. As long as Cebu Air is approved to fly to Australia then safety is not compromised. Also, Airbus would not approve the seat spacing if it breaches any safety rule.

    At least the savings that Cebu Air gets from these are given back to passengers by way of lower airfare. Let the people have choices.

    Also, can I say that Cebu Air flies to many international destinations, and as I hear from sources, is also approve to fly to Canada as well. USA is next target.

    Killed people? Yes true. But if this is the basis then Australia should not allow other airlines with same history too. As I said, accidents do happen. And those DC9 fleet are long gone. Cebu Air has moved on.

  6. Ben Sandilands


    I didn’t say that Australia should stand in the way of Cebu coming here. It is something I often notice in on-line discussion that people load up the author of articles with things that weren’t said.

    To make it even clearer if possible. Cebu is coming to Australia, this is a story about what it is. We can chose to forget the past, but we can’t delete it. I think the reference should have been made, in passing, in the manner it was made.

    Neither Airbus nor any other maker approves the evacuation capacity. The process works in reverse. They design to the evacuation requirement which is determined by international convention as being the number of people who can exit a dark smoke filled cabin in less than 90 seconds with only half of the emergency exits deployed.

    It would not be surprising if in future years the leading regulatory authorities decided to revise those numbers downwards to reflect the increasing average size of passengers.

  7. Jono Belth

    Oh well I will end it here. I am not a speaker for Cebu Air anyway.

    It just puzzles me why sometimes big noises are created against, for example, Tiger Airways when it flew low over in Gold Coast, or Garuda Indonesia being unsafe. When in fact it was Qantas who has countless incidents in the air. Qantas did not get even one suspension.

    This is not against you as you are not either from Qantas or the govt.

  8. johnb78

    Not only that, but Ben’s been one of the loudest voices criticising the regulators’ double standards when it comes to Tiger vs Jetstar.

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