MANILA, JUNE 9, 2008 (STAR) By Rose de la Cruz - Since it started operations in 1996, Cebu Pacific has defined itself as a low cost carrier (LCC) and thus all of its customer programs were geared at “converting sea and land travelers to become air travelers” through competitive air fares and route expansions.

And because of clearly-defined niche market, Cebu Pacific was able to expand its operations not just in the Philippines but also in Asia and eventually the rest of the world through its competitive air fares and other travel packages.

Cebu Pacific is now the world’s 23rd low cost carrier (LCC) and sixth in Asia because of its rapid expansion and robust growth in recent years. Cebu Pacific posted a 58 percent growth in 2007 versus the industry growth of 23 percent, according to Candice A. Iyog, vice president for marketing and product of Cebu Pacific in an interview with The STAR.

“Wherever we operated, we were able to effect an 80 percent reduction in air fares, making it corner a market that existing giant carriers could not service,” she said.

LCCs operate on high loads and offer low fares year-round, which traditional big carriers cannot afford with regularity.

Iyog said Cebu Pacific’s growth, particularly abroad, is not just because of its low fares but because it has more flight schedules to offer; brand new planes; the tour packages and accessibility of ordering, paying, confirming and getting boarding passes online through its website and the Navitaire online program currently being used by global LCCs.

“With the Navitaire system, people can now book, buy (and pay), change or cancel their flight bookings online without having to queue in the ticketing offices or even at the airports,” Iyog said.

“We are the first airline in the Philippines to offer that and we have just joined the rest of global LCCs that use this system for the convenience of their fliers, new or old,” Iyog said.

According to Iyog, the Navitaire system (of Accenture) being used by Cebu Pacific offers additional online service for free such as booking hotels, land transfers, booking for destinations and other incidental services needed by travelers.

“We want to be a one-stop shop for travelers that is why we package everything for them to make traveling light and easy for them, instead of being a horrible experience,” Iyog said.

With the old online system of Cebu Pacific, “we were able to process only 23,000 transactions and then our systems slow down. But now we can work on 125,000 transactions per hour,” she added.

Though online bookings can only be paid using the credit card, Iyog said her company is exploring the possibility of payment through debit system (using the savings or other accounts).

Cebu Pacific has put up hubs in Manila , Cebu and Davao where travelers can take their flights there to other parts of the world. Cebu Pacific flies seven international destinations from Cebu and two international destinations from Davao. Iyog said the international passenger operations of Cebu Pacific grew by 141 percent in 2007 (versus the prior year).

In the Philippines, Cebu Pacific flies its 72-seater aircraft for low-density routes (refusing to use the term missionary routes like other airlines) but it uses its airbuses for heavy routes like Cebu , Davao and abroad.

It is also beefing up its fleet by acquiring before the end of 2008 four brand-new ATRs (propeller aircraft) from France to augment its current two ATRs. It uses this for routes like Caticlan-Boracay and Laoag. Cebu Pacific plans to increase its ATRs to 18 to ply 21 domestic destinations.

It has 18 airbuses or 10 A319 (150-seaters) and eight A320s with 179-seater airbuses. It uses these airbuses for 16 destinations in Asia.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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