Cebu Pacific sends several A321, A330 to Alice Springs for storage

Aviation Updates Philippines – Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air is relocating nine Airbus aircraft to Alice Springs, Australia, for what seems to be long-term storage for these jets. The airline has been optimizing its fleet as part of cost-cutting efforts.

Photo from Steve Strike

Cebu Pacific sent off all of its seven-strong Airbus A321-211 and two Airbus A330-343 aircraft to Alice Springs, Australia, for storage indefinitely. Two A321s departed from Clark after almost four months of no flying, while the rest came from Manila.

As of writing, all aircraft destined for Australia has already arrived. Aircraft that are in Alice Springs are as follows (in arrival sequence): RP-C3341, RP-C3342, RP-C4111, RP-C4112, RP-C4115, RP-C4116, RP-C4117, RP-C4113, and RP-C4114. An Airbus A321-271N, RP-C4123, also arrived but will be used to bring home the ferry crew to Manila.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the airline hard due to flight suspensions. The downturn in air travel lead to the retrenchment of around 800 personnel by August as part of Cebu Pacific’s continued review of its long-term operations.

Part of the review is evaluating Cebu Pacific’s fleet of Airbus A320 family, Airbus A330, and ATR 72-600 aircraft. A previous report reported that the company intends to sell out all Airbus A320-214ceo aircraft as it sticks to more fuel-efficient new engine option (NEO) variants.

READ: Cebu Pacific may sell its A320ceo fleet

During the 2020 Annual Stockholders Meeting, Cebu Pacific Chief Executive Officer Lance Gokongwei said: “We’re undertaking an overall review of our long-term fleet plan. Notwithstanding, this is already a very conservative growth plan compared to our LCCs.”

Cebu Pacific expects to receive three ATRs until 2022, 36 Airbus A321neo (including the XLR) until 2026, five Airbus A320neo starting 2024, and 16 Airbus A330neo starting 2022.

What happens to aircraft in storage?

Alice Springs Airport (ICAO: YBAS) is currently the go-to option for airlines in storing their aircraft due to its dry climate, optimal for minimizing corrosion during long-term hibernation. Singapore Airlines, among others, has sent some of its Airbus A380 for storage at the said airport.

While aircraft are stored, they are not forgotten and abandoned, explains Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) Director Tom Vincent to ABC. Aside from periodic checks from mechanics, stored aircraft are kept airworthy by ensuring it is sealed airtight, while sensitive parts, such as the engines, are covered.

“It’s quite a process to put the aircraft into storage, [but] once the storage-induction check is complete, we’ll then start carrying out the periodic checks every week,” Vincent said. APAS owns the area where aircraft are stored, linked to Alice Spring’s main runway.

Like most airlines, flying to Alice Springs was a quite expected move for Cebu Pacific, given Manila and Clark may have already maxed out its parking facilities. After months of operational standstill, airlines have now initially resumed operations at most commercial airports in the Philippines.