Longer ground time for Cebu Pacific starts in 2 weeks
MANILA, Philippines - The aviation regulator decided to give Cebu Pacific a two-week breather before it requires the budget airline to implement a 45-minute turnaround, or the time between take-offs and landings, in local airports.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) was supposed to announce on Tuesday afternoon, July 16, an order requiring the Cebu Pacific to implement a 45-minute ground time effective July 17 in all its domestic flights.
Caap heeded the Gokongwei-led airline's request to revise their flight schedules first and for time to inform passengers about the flight changes.
“We’re granting this request, giving them two weeks to implement the said order, for safety. We want safe dispatch of flight,” Caap Deputy Director General John Andrews said when reached for comment.
Andrews said Caap Director General William Hotchkiss issued the order Tuesday morning, but decided to cancel an early afternoon press conference after he found that Cebu Pacific's request is justified.
Budget airline model
Cebu Pacific and other budget carriers observe the world standard 25-minute turnaround time to stay cost efficient and afford to offer lower air fares.
Low-cost carriers operate under a business model that encourages more time in the air than on the ground so assets, like their multi-million-dollar aircraft, are efficient and productive. The ground time is allotted for offloading passengers, refuelling and loading again.
Andrews said ordering Cebu Pacific to stretch their turnaround time was among those included in the corrective action plan they gave the airline after one of its planes figured in an incident in Davao airport in June.
Caap found that pilot error was the reason for the incident that resulted in the closing of the country's 3rd busiest airport for two days.
Andrews said the current 25-minute turnaround time does not give Cebu Pacific's pilots enough leeway to perform aircraft inspections, including personally checking the landing gears, engines, and other key parts of the aircraft before the plane takes off again.
"You cannot delegate responsibility to the mechanic or anyone else, because you are responsible for that flight, for that aircraft,” said Andrews, himself a former pilot for Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines.
“We have seen instances of the aircraft returning because the engine cowling (cover) is not properly locked,” he added.
Andrews shrugged off the question regarding the order's impact on the low fares that budget carriers like Cebu Pacific currently offer passengers.
"What dictates domestic prices,? Market forces, nothing else...Whenever there is more demand, you have higher fare, less demand you bring down the fares, competition brings it down also. So, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing that will affect domestic fares."
He admitted that Cebu Pacific’s operating cost may go up, “but if everybody follows the same, everybody will have the same operating cost…That may even level the playing field. So what is the big deal about this, were talking only about domestic flights."
Cebu Pacific is the Philippines biggest domestic airline, carrying almost 9.48 million, or almost half the 20.57 million local airline passengers in 2012.
It pioneered low-cost-travel in the country, which is globally recognized for having an 80% penetration rate by budget carriers, the world's highest. The rise of affordable air travel in the Philippines has eclipsed the shipping industry, which was mired in sea mishaps that had killed thousands.
Andrews said Caap will have a dialogue with the other local carriers, including PAL Express, Zest Air and Seair, on Wednesday, July 17, to ask their opinion about the directive being imposed on Cebu Pacific. - Rappler.com