BIZ BUZZ: Cebu Pacific force majeure
A cursory glance through social media these days will reveal a large number of travelers venting their frustration at Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines—but the former more than the latter—for flight delays and cancellations.
Like we said yesterday, this was due mainly to problems with US-based jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, which has been unable to meet the maintenance requirements of their client airlines all over the world.
Biz Buzz learned that the Gokongwei family-controlled carrier actually anticipated this problem last year by doubling the number of spare engines it held in reserve from the prescribed international standard of 10 percent to 20 percent, just in case.
Alas, even this large backup margin was erased in recent weeks after it was revealed that the new Pratt & Whitney jet engines on Cebu Pacific’s new Airbus A320neo aircraft, though more efficient in fuel consumption, would actually need to be brought in for servicing after just 6,000 flight cycles (compared to the 20,000 for the older models).
“This means that, if this were a new car, it would need to be brought back to the dealership for maintenance in less than a third of the mileage that an older model required,” said one exasperated airline executive.
“The worst part is that, even when you ground the plane for servicing, they don’t have the parts available for repairs,” the executive explained, adding that even used parts are scarce since airlines are cannibalizing their own fleets for spare parts.”
To make things worse, Airbus recently announced delays in delivering new aircraft to its customers from anywhere between three to six months, no thanks to the European plane maker’s own logistical challenges.
Cebu Pacific is scheduled to receive 10 new Airbus planes this year, but the delays mean it will likely struggle with flight scheduling for the next few weeks. It has already reduced the number of bookings it accepts until the problem is resolved, but the current headaches are due mainly to reservations made during its seat sales as far back as a year earlier (when the maintenance challenges had yet to emerge).
Philippine Airlines, we hear, is struggling with the same problems but is lucky enough to have some Boeing aircraft in its fleet, versus Cebu Pacific which relies solely on Airbus.
Will the budget carrier be able to appease frustrated travelers and politicians during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the issue? Abangan!
—Daxim L. Lucas INQ
Email us at BizBuzz@inquirer.com.ph
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