Cebu Pacific: The History Of The All Economy A330 Operator

Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific operates the country’s largest domestic network. Based out of hubs in Cebu and Manila, it also flies further afield in the Asia-Pacific region, using its famous all-economy Airbus A330s. With both regional and cargo brands also under its belt, Cebu Pacific became the largest Philippine airline by passenger numbers in 2010.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A321neo
Cebu Pacific flies the Airbus A321neo, and has ordered the A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

Founded in August 1988 as Cebu Air, it wasn’t until March 1996 that the airline commenced operations under its present Cebu Pacific identity. Despite a temporary suspension due to a fatal accident, the airline established a large domestic network in its early years. It has since been able to open various international routes, revealing a new logo and livery in 2016.

Initially a domestic carrier

Getting Cebu Pacific in the air was a lengthy process. After its 1988 foundation, the Philippine government granted it a franchise to operate air services out of Cebu in 1991. However, it was only after an acquisition by JG Summit Holdings and market deregulation by the government that the airline was able to take to the skies for the first time in 1996.

Cebu Pacific’s early operations saw it fly around 24 domestic services a day between the metropolitan areas of Cebu, Davao, and Manila. Its first aircraft were McDonnell Douglas DC-9s, of which it flew 19 in its first decade, according to data from The carrier was briefly grounded in 1998 after one of these crashed, sadly killing all 104 of its occupants.

Cebu Pacific DC-9
The DC-9 served Cebu Pacific’s early domestic routes. Photo: Mark Tang via Wikimedia Commons

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The international boom

By the early 21st century, Cebu Pacific’s domestic network has grown to comprise 18 destinations. It served these with around 80 flights a day. It was also at around this time that it became able to launch international services in the Asia-Pacific region.

The first of these took to the skies in November 2001, connecting Manila with Hong Kong. In the years that followed, Cebu Pacific added the likes of Seoul and Singapore to its growing international network. In October 2006, the airline gained a monopoly on the Cebu-Hong Kong route, following flag carrier Philippine Airlines’ withdrawal on this corridor.

flypop, Airbus A330, livery
Cebu Pacific’s 436-seat A330s have unlocked more capacity on high-demand routes. Photo: Getty Images

Recent history

Moving into the 2010s, the last decade or so has proved a fruitful time for Cebu Pacific. January 2011 saw the airline celebrate carrying its 50 millionth passenger, who was traveling on a flight from Manila to Beijing. Later that year, it signed an order for the Airbus A321neo, which it has flown since 2019. According to, it has 12 more on order, as well as 10 A321XLRs. 16 A330neos are also inbound, with these jets set to have 460 seats.

In 2013, Cebu Pacific began receiving high-density A330-300s. These 436-seaters have low enough operating costs that the airline can sell tickets for as little as $0.27! 2015 saw the airline launch a regional brand known as Cebgo, after it took over Tigerair Philippines. It has also launched a cargo division of this all-ATR 72 airline. A year later, it launched its new logo and livery, which will be seen on various new Airbus jets in years to come.

What do you make of Cebu Pacific? Have you ever flown with this Philippine low-cost carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.