Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is focusing its international expansion within East and Southeast Asia this year, shelving plans of launching flights to Saudi Arabia and reopening trips to Beijing as supply issues shake the airline.

Cebu Pacific president and chief commercial officer Alexander Lao told reporters the carrier is holding off yet again its plan of offering flights to Saudi Arabia.

Further, Lao said the resumption of flights to Beijing was pushed to the fourth quarter this year, as uncertainties continue to hound the Chinese economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Originally, Cebu Pacific had wanted to reopen its Manila-Beijing trips in 2023, but Lao said Chinese demand has yet to show any signs of climbing back to pre-pandemic levels. Right now, China is encouraging locals to travel domestically to support economic recovery.

'China has been so soft. Until we see a rebound in terms of forward bookings, I think we have to take a deliberate approach on China,' Lao said.

For Saudi Arabia, Cebu Pacific had considered opening a connection there last year, but had to postpone the plan when its fleet was injured by supply disruptions.

Saudi Arabia hosts the largest number of overseas Filipino workers across the world, making up 24.4 percent of the 1.83 million OFWs in 2021.

However, similar to 2023, Cebu Pacific will also operate on an injured fleet this year, expecting one in five aircraft to be out of service with their jet engines being repaired.

In spite of this, Lao said the airline will reallocate the use of wide-body aircraft to popular routes like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo to scale up passenger capacity per flight. Cebu Pacific may also raise flight availability to Da Nang in Vietnam, as the destination starts to grab the attention of travelers.

'Our new route is doing quite well. Da Nang has done quite well. It is thrice a week and we are, hopefully, looking to increase frequencies on that. We are studying that now,' Lao said.


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