Philippine aviation growth driven by Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express and Zest Air; Manila set to pass 30 million this year

February 2012: Cebu Pacific’s President and CEO, Lance Gokongwei, celebrates the wide-body aircraft announcement with his crew.

February 2012: Cebu Pacific’s President and CEO, Lance Gokongwei, celebrates the wide-body aircraft announcement with his crew. Next year, the airline will start using A330-200s to establish long-haul low-cost routes to Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and the USA. The airline is already the Philippines’ largest domestic airline and second-largest in the international market.

March 2012: Cebu Pacific’s new route between the capitals  of the Philippines and Vietnam is cut by Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, sister of the Philippines’ president Benigno Aquino III,

March 2012: The ribbon for Cebu Pacific’s new route between the capitals of the Philippines and Vietnam is cut by the three sisters of the Philippines’ president Benigno Aquino III; Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Pinky Aquino-Abellada.

Since our last analysis of the Philippine air transport market exactly three years ago, the country’s airports and airlines have continued to report impressive and uninterrupted growth. In 2011 over 50 million passengers passed through Philippine airports, representing growth of almost 50% since 2008. The country’s busiest airport is Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila which handled just under 30 million passengers last year and accounts for some 56% of all airport traffic in the country, a percentage that has fallen slightly from 64% as recently as 2008.

Philippine airports 2001-2011 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: CAAP, Civil Aeronautics Board

According to OAG schedule data for July there are 40 airports in the country with scheduled services, with Mactan-Cebu (CEB) and Davao (DVO) being the next busiest after Manila in terms of weekly scheduled departing seats. Both of these airports offer international services (though in Davao’s case just a single route to Singapore) as do Kalibo (KLO) and Clark International Airport (CRK).

Cebu Pacific and PAL group dominate domestic markets

Domestic air travel is dominated by two major airline groups, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL). While Philippine Airlines itself has seen its domestic market share shrink in recent years, its low-cost subsidiary Airphil Express has been growing rapidly as confirmed by government statistics.

Philippine domestic market 2006-2011 Annual passengers (millions) by airline

Source: Civil Aeronautics Board * Previously Air Philippines ** Previously Asian Spirit

In 2011 Airphil Express doubled its passenger numbers to 3.7 million, and in the first quarter of 2012 carried almost as many passengers as PAL, suggesting that by the end of the year the airline will overtake its parent company to be the second biggest in the domestic market. In terms of the current schedule data for July Airphil Express is now in a clear second place and operates as many domestic airport-pairs as leader Cebu Pacific.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Domestic routes
Cebu Pacific 40.5% 40.2% 52
Airphil Express 28.2% 25.0% 53
Philippine Airlines 17.6% 21.9% 18
Zest Air 11.0% 10.9% 11
AirAsia Philippines 1.5% 1.5% 3
SEAIR 1.1% 0.4% 4
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 2 July 2012

AirAsia Philippines launched at the end of March 2012 with double-daily flights from Clark to Davao and Kalibo, followed by daily flights to Puerto Princesa in mid-April.

Cutting the ribbon in Clark were Alfredo Herrera, AirPhil Express' SVP Marketing and Sales, and Victor Jose Luciano, CEO, Clark International Airport Corporation.

April 2012: Clark International Airport becomes an AirPhil Express destination going head-on against AirAsia’s latest Philippine franchise, which inaugurated its operations only a day before. Cutting the ribbon in Clark were Alfredo Herrera, AirPhil Express' SVP Marketing and Sales, and Victor Jose Luciano, CEO, Clark International Airport Corporation.

Local carriers currently operate half of international capacity

Analysis of current schedule data reveals that local carriers account for around 50% of scheduled seat capacity on international services from the Philippines, though Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) data for 2011 reports that local carriers transported just under seven million passengers while foreign carriers handled 8.7 million international passengers. Philippine Airlines remains the biggest airline in the international market with a 26% share of seat capacity, compared with 17% for Cebu Pacific. This is consistent with CAB’s data showing PAL carrying 3.9 million international passengers in 2011, compared with just under 2.5 million for Cebu Pacific.

A total of 39 airlines currently offer international scheduled services to and from the Philippines, including all of the MEB3 carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways), three US carriers (Delta, Hawaiian and United), and just a single European carrier (KLM which serves Amsterdam via Taipei).

New international services launched from Manila since the beginning of 2011 include:

Launch date Destination Airline Launch WF (aircraft) Current WF
9 February 2011 Darwin (DRW) Jetstar 3 (A320) 4
27 February 2011 Tokyo Narita (NRT) ANA 7 (B763ER) 7
27 March 2011 Delhi (DEL) Philippine Airlines 3 (A330) Ended 2 Oct 2011
17 April 2011 Macau (MFM) Spirit of Manila 2 (MD83) -
15 June 2011 Busan (PUS) Cebu Pacific 4 (A320) 4
17 March 2012 Hanoi (HAN) Cebu Pacific 2 (A320) 2
23 March 2012 Xiamen (XMN) Cebu Pacific 3 (A320) 3
13 April 2012 Tokyo Narita (NRT) Jetstar 4 (A320) 4
19 April 2012 Siem Reap (REP) Cebu Pacific 3 (A319) 3
26 April 2012 Jinjiang (JJN) Zest Air 3 (A320) 3
1 May 2012 Denpasar (DPS) Philippine Airlines 2 (A320) 2
21 June 2012 Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Airphil Express 3 (A320) 3
25 July 2012 Shanghai (PVG) Zest Air 5 (A320) starting this week
Source: anna.aero new route database and OAG Max Online for w/c 2 July 2012 WF: Weekly frequency

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