Cebu Pacific applies for long-haul entitlements to Middle East, Australia

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Cebu Pacific is expecting to receive notification by the end of November on seat entitlements for the destinations it intends to serve on its upcoming long-haul, low-cost operations.

The Philippine carrier has requested for seat entitlements to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, and is on track to launch long-haul services in the third quarter of 2013, says Alex Reyes, general manager for its long-haul division.

He adds that the carrier has also applied to the local government for additional seats to Australia, so that it can launch services from more than one city.

The carrier, which signed a lease with CIT Aerospace for four Airbus A330-300s, is scheduled to receive its first aircraft in June 2013. The second aircraft is due to be delivered in September, followed by the remaining two in 2014.

All four aircraft will have 400 seats in a single-class configuration.

"The under-served markets we have identified are in the Middle East and Australia we seek to provide direct flight services for overseas Filipino workers who often find there aren't enough seats available, or have to go through multiple stops to get to their destinations," says Reyes.

Over the longer term, however, the low-cost carrier also intends to start services to the USA and Europe.

It received approval this month from the US Department of Transportation to fly to the USA on the condition that it wet leases aircraft from an American carrier or an airline in a Category 1 country. The airline can only fly its own aircraft should the country's rating be upgraded to Category 1.

The Philippines' aviation safety rating was downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2 in 2008 when the US Federal Aviation Administration found that it did not meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation's standards in its aviation safety oversight.

The Category 2 rating means that Philippine carriers cannot fly to the USA. Those carriers which were doing so before the downgrade will not be able to increase flight frequencies to the country or change the aircraft type being operated unless it wet leases aircraft from a country with a category 1 rating.

At the announcement of its plans to launch long-haul services in February, the carrier's president and chief executive Lance Gokongwei said he expects market demand for long-haul services in the Philippines to grow by up to 70% over the next four years.