Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cebu eyes full use of Naia T3

Business Mirror

FLAG carrier Cebu Pacific Air intends to fill up the entire Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) by late 2012 or early 2013.

In his speech delivered before yesterday’s aviation summit, the airline’s vice president for commercial planning Alex Reyes said this bold statement of Cebu Pacific is anchored on an expansion and upgrade plan for the terminal.

The new terminal has a rated capacity of more than 13 million passengers a year. But the new facility is already starting to look inadequate, hence the need to begin discussions on an annex to Naia T3, or an add-on.

“First, we wish for infrastructure that stays ahead of the curve. In other words, terminals, runways and navigation systems to run our highways in the skies that are more than adequate for the next five years. Having the infrastructure in place means companies will have the confidence to invest billions to further grow their business.

Too often, we all play catch-up. And more often than we would like, by the time an airport or terminal opens, it can no longer cope with the surge in demand,” said Reyes.

The airline already opened discussions with Manila International Airport Authority on how to expand the capacity of Naia T3. Ideally, Reyes said, the capacity should be expanded to 20 million passengers a year, in parallel with efforts to build up Clark as an alternative gateway into the Philippines. “That way, T3 can accommodate not just Cebu Pacific’s growth but the entry of additional foreign carriers. If foreign carriers operate at T3, we will benefit as the long-haul carriers will provide feed to our domestic network into the country’s tourist spots,” added Reyes.

President Aquino has identified tourism and infrastructure as the target driver for economic growth in the coming years—with an aim to double Philippine tourists to 6 million by 2016. Three million additional tourists a year, or double the amount from 2010, means 6 million more passengers transiting through various airports. “This is a welcome development for commercial airlines, but it will be an added strain on our airport infrastructure,” said Reyes.

The Cebu Pacific official pointed out that an expanded facility need not be fancy. “We do look for simple terminals requiring little maintenance—warehouse-type, single-story structures such as the Budget Terminal in Singapore—that can comfortably move thousands of passengers in a day. These are the types suited for Philippine conditions. We are also in need of airports with night-landing capabilities, especially for the fast-growing tourist spots such as Naga, Butuan and Legazpi. More night-capable airports will mean airlines can schedule flights beyond sunset, helping to decongest Manila’s runways during the noon to early-afternoon peaks.”

Aside from physical structures, Cebu Pacific stressed the need for soft infrastructure. These are rules, procedures, and most especially the trained and skilled aviation personnel who manage the airways, develop and implement safety rules, and check that everyone is operating up to international safety standards.

“By soft infrastructure, we also mean the air rights or entitlements between our country and our major trading partners. Today, there are no more air rights available between Manila and the major capital cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, as well as Hong Kong. This means no new international services can be started between Manila and those cities, which are a major source of tourists for the country. Removing constraints such as the lack of air rights will boost the growth rate of the industry,” added Reyes.

Cebu Pacific also wishes for basics rights. “We have about 85 airports around the country. Often, what we find is that the basics just don’t get done. We find perimeter fences unfinished. We find safety markings incomplete. We find x-ray machines that breakdown more often than they should. When our perimeter fences are not completed, when airport security is compromised because of budget constraints—these are unacceptable for an industry that prides itself in putting the safety of the riding public above all else.”

Between 2012 and 2014, Cebu Pacific will take an additional 16 Airbus A320 aircraft.

Reyes said other airlines are also growing and beefing up their fleet. Air Philippines, Zest and Seair have publicly announced that they are expanding their narrow body fleets. If everyone takes delivery of the aircraft they have announced, there will be 67 narrow body jets plying the Philippine skies by the end of 2011, a jump up from 56 at the end of 2009 and a mere 47 in 2008.

“We are going to see much busier skies around the country. If we don’t act quickly, we will see gridlock on our ramps, on our airways, in our terminals,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the company said it will offer a Legazpi, Hong Kong and Macau seat sale from January 20 to 23, 2011 or until seats last.

For travel from February 1 to March 31, passengers can avail of P499 seats from Manila and Cebu to Legazpi. For travel from March 1 to April 30, they can also avail of P999 seats from Clark to Hong Kong or Macau, and from Cebu to Hong Kong., Seats priced for P1,499 are also up for grabs from Manila to Hong Kong or Macau, and from Clark to Bangkok or Singapore. Those with check-in luggage will just add P100 upon booking.

“These seat sale fares are 57-percent less for those traveling to Bangkok, as much as 40-percent less for Hong Kong, and 40-percent less for Macau,” said vice president for marketing and distribution, Candice Iyog, in a statement.

“The demand for more Cebu Pacific trademark low fares to these destinations is very strong, especially to Hong Kong, and we want to encourage even more travelers to book for their business and leisure travel,” she added.

Cebu Pacific flies to Legazpi from Manila thrice daily, and from Cebu thrice weekly. It operates a Hong Kong service from Manila five times daily, and from Cebu and Clark daily. Its Macau service from Manila is daily as well.

The airline ended 2010 with a fleet composed of 10 Airbus A319, 14 Airbus A320 and eight ATR-72 500. It operates to 33 domestic and 16 international destinations from Manila, Cebu, Clark and Davao.

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