Cebu Pacific eyes Boeing 737 fleet

High-ranking officials from Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air visited Boeing’s Customer Experience Center in Renton, Washington, USA, this week to study the feasibility of adding the Boeing 737 MAX to the airline’s roster.

The visit to the American planemaker’s facility was first revealed internally at AUP, which has since been confirmed by a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Daxim Lucas.

The following Cebu Pacific executives were present during the trip: Alexander Lao (President and Chief Commercial Officer), Mike Szücs (CEO), Candice Iyog (Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer), Lei Apostol (Vice President for Customer Service Operations), Mark Cezar (Chief Financial Officer), and Brian Franke (Board Director).

Cebu Pacific has been operating an all-Airbus fleet since retiring its three Boeing 757 aircraft in 2006. The low-cost carrier also operated a fleet of McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, which became the backbone of its fleet since the start of its operations in 1996.

Following the footsteps of American low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, which was considered the benchmark for low-cost carrier operations around the globe, Cebu Pacific adopted a single-fleet strategy, where only a single aircraft type is flown to take advantage of the commonality of parts, flexibility of pilots, and lower maintenance costs.

However, with the recent issues with the supply chain at Airbus and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, the airline is now weighing the possibility of adding a second narrowbody aircraft type—the direct rival of the Airbus A320 family aircraft, the Boeing 737.

An airline official told Inquirer: “Following disappointments regarding Airbus’ delays and (jet engine manufacturer) Pratt & Whitney’s (supply chain issue) issues, Cebu Pacific’s executive leadership team met with Boeing in Seattle to explore the B737 fleet.”

An additional order for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft would enable the airline to rapidly expand its fleet, assuming that the outstanding narrowbody orders from Airbus would still be in place. The official was quoted saying that these new 737 aircraft could be deployed at the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan once it starts operations.

“We are looking at a process for our narrowbody re-fleeting based on building another large base in Bulacan,” the official said. “So it will be a big enough base for us to operate Airbus from NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) and either Boeing or Airbus for Bulacan depending on who gives us best deal.”

Cebu Pacific has been struggling to meet its originally scheduled flight frequencies over the past months due to the unexpected longer duration of maintenance for its Airbus A320neo family aircraft. With this, the airline temporarily leased Airbus A320ceo aircraft as a stop-gap measure.

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