MELBOURNE, Australia – It was a touch past 4 am and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 was buzzing with excitement – or at least, as much excitement you can muster at this odd hour.
At Gate 107, Cebu Pacific, the Philippines' leading budget carrier, was about to launch its inaugural flight to Melbourne – its second destination in Australia.
Beginning Tuesday, August 14, the Gokongwei-led budget carrier will be flying thrice a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) to the capital of Victoria, a south-eastern Australian state.
Cebu Pacific executives and Australian Embassy officials took this chance to talk about the new route's benefits beyond offering cheap fares to budget travellers.
Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution said they hope the route would boost trade and commerce between the Philippines and Australia.
“This will enable more opportunities and strengthen economic and cultural between our two countries, through what we call ‘The CEB effect,’” Iyog said during a short program before the inaugural flight took off.
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely said: “It’s not just the people. it’s the cargo which is also very important for businesses – being able to get what they need into the country effectively and cheaply.”
“When an airline starts operating, it opens up economic opportunities for both countries,” she said.
Cebu Pacific’s track record in its first Australia destination – Sydney – will be hard to beat.
In a chance interview with media, Iyog said Cebu Pacific is the “largest carrier between the two routes, carrying the most number of passengers.”
The same is true when it comes to cargo between Manila and Sydney and vice versa.
Gorely said that since the Sydney route was launched, visa applications for Australia have risen by over 30%. She stressed, however, that Cebu Pacific isn’t necessarily solely to thank for the jump.
“It’s definitely starting off stronger than how Sydney started,” said Iyog of the demand since the Melbourne route was announced.
Flight 5J049 on Tuesday, August 14, was almost full – save for one or two empty seats.
A one-way ticket from Manila to Melbourne can go for as low as P9,500 (about $178), all-in.
Iyog said it’s 60% lower than most airline ticket prices. – Rappler.com