MANILA, Philippines – Listed budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John L. Gokongwei Jr. is likely to serve less than 15 million passengers this year after posting a single-digit growth in the volume of passengers in the first quarter of the year.
Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said in an interview with reporters that the low cost carrier would likely miss its projected volume of passengers this year after the slowdown in the growth in air traffic in the first quarter.
“That remains our target, although after the first quarter I think we will be a little bit short. It will be lower than 15 million but close to that,” Gokongwei stressed.
In the first quarter of the year, volume of passengers of Cebu Pacific inched up 4.9 percent to 3.5 million from 3.4 million in the same quarter last year, while number of flights increased 4.8 percent as the number of aircraft went up to 43 from 40.
The growth in the first quarter was less than half the double-digit growth in the volume of passengers booked last year.
Cebu Pacific booked a double-digit 11 percent growth in volume of passengers to 13.26 million in 2012 from 11.93 million in 2011 on the back of robust domestic and international operations brought about by aggressive sales promotions last year.
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This was however lower than the target of 14 million passengers.
Latest data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed that air traffic in the Philippines inched up 1.1 percent to 9.576 million passengers in the first quarter from a year-ago level of 9.47 million.
The number of domestic passengers retreated 2.1 percent to 5.062 million in the first quarter from 5.17 million in the same quarter last year, while the volume of international passengers grew 4.97 percent to 4.514 million from 4.47 million.
Cebu Pacific reported that its net income jumped over 20 percent to P1.16 billion from January to March this year compared to P962.4 million booked in the same period last year, while revenues grew 12.9 percent to P10.54 billion from P9.34 billion due to higher passenger and cargo volumes.
For 2012, earnings of the airline slipped 1.5 percent to P3.57 billion from the P3.624 billion recorded in 2011, while revenues grew 11.7 percent to P37.9 billion from P33.93 billion on the back of higher passenger as well as cargo revenues.
Gokongwei said the airline is on track to sustaining profits this year based on the growing number of passengers.
The airline is unfazed by recent incidents involving two of its aircraft this month and is pursuing a massive re-fleeting program to beef up its fleet to reach 62 aircraft by 2017 from about 41 Airbus aircraft as of end-2012.
Gokongwei said Cebu Pacific had a fleet of about 43 aircraft as of the first quarter of this year consisting of 25 Airbus A320s, 10 Airbus A319s, and eight ATRs.
He pointed out that Cebu Pacific is taking the delivery of three additional A320s in the second half of the year and two A330s next year.
He added that the low cost carrier expects the delivery of nine more A320s between 2015 and 2017.
During the period, Gokongwei said Cebu Pacific expects to undertake seven lease returns.
Likewise, he announced that the airline expects to take the delivery of two wide-body A330 this year, two next year, and two in 2015.
It has also ordered 30 A321NEO aircraft that would be delivered between 2017 and 2021.
Gokongwei said the airline has heightened its focus on safety giving it the highest priority after a Cebu Pacific flight 5J-971 veered off the runway of the Davao International Airport last June 2.
He said the 165 passengers were safe but the incident caused runway obstruction leading to a two-day closure of the airport.
Another incident happened two weeks ago when a Cebu Pacific flight from Iloilo City veered off the runway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) damaging five runway lights.
“June is a difficult month for us but safety has always been the higher priority for Cebu Pacific,” he stressed.