Key Points:

  • Cebu Pacific, the Philippines' largest airline, is in talks with Boeing to expand its fleet, potentially moving away from an exclusive relationship with Airbus.

  • The airline is considering establishing an operational hub at the New Manila International Airport, being constructed by San Miguel Corp. in Bulacan.

  • Company executives indicate that supply chain issues with Airbus and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney have prompted a reevaluation of Cebu Pacific's long-standing strategy.

Philippines' Largest Airline Considers Shifting Gears from Airbus to Boeing

MANILA —Amid supply chain disruptions from its long-term partner Airbus and engine provider Pratt & Whitney, Cebu Pacific is contemplating a strategic pivot. The Philippine budget airline,has initiated exploratory discussions with Boeing to possibly expand its fleet with Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. This could mark a significant shift for the airline, which has relied exclusively on Airbus planes for nearly two decades.

According to Inquirer, The airline's top brass, including President Xander Lao, CEO Michael Szucs, CFO Mark Cezar, CMO Candice Iyog, and VP for customer service operations Lei Apostol, were recently in Seattle to meet with Boeing executives. They visited Boeing's Washington-based manufacturing facility to explore options related to the 737 MAX series, which competes directly with Airbus's A320neo line.

While the talks with Boeing could herald a major change for the airline's fleet, they also point to another significant development. Cebu Pacific is eyeing the construction of an operations hub at the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan, currently being built by the San Miguel Corp. A high-ranking official at the airline confirmed that Cebu Pacific aims to capitalize on the upcoming airport, whose first phase is expected to be operational by 2026.

Cebu Pacific started its journey in 1996 with second-hand DC-9 aircraft and later shifted to operating an exclusive fleet of Airbus jets, supplemented by twin-engined turboprops from Franco-Italian planemaker ATR. This strategy was deemed cost-effective, as it allowed the airline to realize savings by sticking to a single manufacturer.

However, recent challenges with Airbus and Pratt & Whitney have pushed the airline to reconsider its approach. According to insiders, the frustrations stemming from supply chain issues have led to flight cancellations and aircraft groundings, prompting a reevaluation of the benefits of an exclusive partnership. 

The airline had briefly operated Boeing 757 narrowbody airliners for international routes between 2001 and 2006 but had since been an exclusive Airbus operator. This potential move toward Boeing marks a revisitation of past strategies and an adaptation to emerging operational complexities.