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Philippine low-cost carrier considers buying more aircraft from Airbus unit
Cebu Pacific Air, a Philippine low-cost carrier, received on Thursday its first A320neo aircraft assembled at Airbus' final assembly line in Tianjin.
The airline plans to accept deliveries of three more aircraft from the European aircraft maker's Tianjin factory and is confident about the air travel market's growth prospects in China. Cebu Pacific said it is considering placing orders for more aircraft in the future.
The A320neo aircraft has 188 seats in a single-class configuration and is powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. The delivery flight will be fueled by a 41 percent blend of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF — the highest proportion ever to be used among all Cebu Pacific's such flights.
"Next, Cebu Pacific will operate the aircraft across our extensive domestic and regional networks, and most of such flights are expected to be short-haul lasting about one hour to an hour-and-a-half," said Michael Szucs, CEO of Cebu Pacific.
"It makes sense from an economic perspective for us to accept the delivery of aircraft from a place that is close to our home. The flying distance between Manila and Tianjin is shorter compared with the distance between Manila and Toulouse, France," Szucs said.
Cebu Pacific said it incurred a loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first quarter, however, the airline made a profit, but the profitability was still lower than pre-COVID levels.
The carrier said it has seen demand for air travel grow healthily, so profitability is foreseen to return to the pre-COVID levels in 2024.
Cebu Pacific has been operating in China since 2007. In the next six to 12 months, passenger demand for flights that connect China and the Philippines is expected to recover further from the effects of the pandemic. In the long term, the Chinese market is highly important to the Philippines, the airline said.
Earlier this week, Hungarian airline Wizz Air, the largest Central and Eastern European low-cost carrier, accepted delivery of its first A321neo aircraft, also assembled at Airbus' Tianjin facility. It is also the first A321neo plane delivered to a European carrier from Tianjin.
Opened in 2008, the Airbus facility in Tianjin serves as the plane maker's first commercial aircraft assembly line outside of Europe. Since its first A320 delivery in 2009, the center has delivered more than 600 aircraft.
Ever since China optimized its COVID-19 response measures and resumed quarantine-free international travel in January, international carriers have ramped up efforts to resume more flights or increase the frequency of flights on certain routes that connect China with overseas destinations.
The International Air Transport Association recently reported that travelers these days display high levels of confidence in travel again. Advance bookings indicated the highest growth is expected in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Europe, the IATA said.
The IATA survey covered 4,700 travelers from 11 countries. It showed that 79 percent of those surveyed were planning a trip in the June-August period this year.