Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific has narrowed down its McDonnell Douglas DC-9 replacement choice to the Airbus A319 and Boeing 717 and has begun exploring financing options for a 14-aircraft deal.

The airline has long been considering replacements for its 12 DC-9-32s, but has deferred a decision several times. Sources close to the carrier say an order is virtually certain this time, however, in part because Cebu Pacific wants to start disposing of its ageing DC-9s before some become due for costly heavy maintenance checks early next year.

Cebu Pacific has been assessing the Airbus A318 and A319, 717 and the Embraer 175/195. The 717 has long been considered a favourite because of its similarity to the DC-9. Boeing is desperate for an order to keep the production line going. It has been proposing new 717s, rather than used aircraft that Qantas Airways will be disposing of.

The sources say that while many within Cebu Pacific remain strongly in favour of the 717, some prefer the A319, in part because of the issue of residual values.

Cebu Pacific confirms that an aircraft selection is imminent and it wants deliveries to start early next year. It says it plans to purchase 14 aircraft and is seeking tax breaks from the government.

Source: Flight International