Cebu Pacific Considers Serving China and India with A321XLR

Cebu Pacific Air will consider opening new routes to India, China and Russia using the Airbus A321XLR. The airline will accept first deliveries of the new type in 2024, after which it hopes to expand the regional offering out of its Manila and Cebu hubs.

A Cebu Pacific A320-200 in flight
The A321XLR may also be used for flights to Australia from Cebu. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

Cebu Pacific Air is considering plans to extend its regional route portfolio using the Airbus A321XLR, CH-Aviation reported today. Cebu Pacific Air’s Chief Executive Advisor Mike Szücs hinted at the plans during an interview with CAPA TV earlier in the week.

Although the details of the new routes have not yet been revealed, Cebu Pacific Air has confirmed that it will be carrying out a widespread up gauging of its routes. Talking to CAPA TV, Szücs said,

“There’s lots of route planning to go but I think by the time we get to 2024 we will want to be opening our eyes.”

Cebu Pacific looking ahead

According to CAPA, Cebu Pacific Air’s domestic market share has been on the decline in recent years. From a peak of 60% in 2014/15, by quarter one of 2019, it sat at just 50%. But the airline’s share of the regional international market remained much steadier over the same period, falling just one percent in 2018 from a 20% share in the previous three years.

A Cebu Pacific Air jet at Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Cebu Pacific has been steadily losing domestic market share since 2015. Photo: Wikimedia/RoyKabanlit

Cebu Pacific Air hopes to capitalize on its strong international market share by upgauging its routes, particularly out of its main hub Manila. It already offers direct flights to Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen, and thanks to an ever-increasing demand in the Chinese market, plans to add a number of additional routes.

“China is developing a lot of airfields. These secondary and tertiary airports in China will be big places so I think those will be great for inbound tourism particularly from somewhere like Cebu”, Szücs said in his interview with CAPA TV.

The low-cost airline is already known for the tight seat densities it has chosen on many of its aircraft, and the A321XLR will allow it to continue this strategy.

The Airbus A321XLR

Cebu Pacific Air was one of a number of carriers impressed by the Airbus A321XLR during its reveal at this year’s Paris Air Show. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for an order of 10 A321XLRs which will be delivered from 2024.

The A321XLR will be the world’s longest-range single-aisle aircraft, making it a very attractive proposition for airlines looking to fill regional routes.

An Airbus A320neo test rig in flight
The A321XLR will be a longer-range version of the A321neo, pictured above. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The A321XLR offers a significantly longer range than the A321neo and the A321XL, at 4,700 nautical miles. This extra range is achieved through the addition of a 12,900 liter/3,400 US gallon fuel tank in the rear-center of the cargo hold.

This does have a negative effect on the type’s passenger and cargo capacity, leaving it with just 200 seats. This is 20 less than the A321LR and 40 less than the A321neo.

In true Cebu Pacific style, the airline has opted to fit out its A321XLRs with 240 seats. This will result in a slightly reduced range, but still enough to serve its list of potential new routes.

Cebu Pacific Air has not yet responded to Simple Flying’s request for more information on the new routes.