Bye-bye seat sale? Cebu Pacific to keep fares low, offers unlimited rebooking

Despite the blows the aviation industry has been taking since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, budget airline Cebu Pacific vows to keep its fares low, maintaining its corporate DNA of democratizing flying. 

FLY SAFE, SOON. Cebu Pacific launches more flexible options for passengers such as unlimited rebooking and extension of Travel Fund validity as it reassures guests to keep its fares. CEB announces the resumption of its Manila-Incheon flights beginning August 6.
“We will guarantee to do everything possible [so] that fares remain low. We just have to find ways to make everything more efficient,” CEB vice president of marketing and customer experience Candice Iyog said during a virtual press conference. 

In addition, the airline now allows customers to rebook their flights unlimited times without fees or minimal fare difference—depending on the travel date selected. Passengers with travel dates until November 30, 2020 may avail of this option. 

Cebu Pacific has extended its Travel Fund (CEB’s virtual wallet equivalent to the full cost of the ticket) validity to two years. This can be used to book flights up to 12 months ahead, or July 2022 and use it to book for flights 12 months ahead, which means the Travel Fund can be used for 2023 flights.   

For customers with existing Travel Funds, the two-year validity will be applied retroactively, or from the date the fund was created.

Adapting to the ‘new normal’

The ongoing pandemic has grounded many flights around the world, including Cebu Pacific’s. The Gokongwei-led airline’s current flights since it restarted operations on June 2 account for only 10 percent of its pre-COVID network. 

“Today we fly to 23 domestic and one (Dubai) international destination (Manila-Incheon flights will resume on August 6). Pre-COVID, we fly to 36 domestic and 26 international, a total of 62 destinations,” said Iyog. 

Each aircraft now undergoes deep interior cleaning and disinfection daily, from every seven days pre-COVID, while crew members are required to wear personal protective equipment in-flight. 
She continued, “We’re just operating at 10 percent of our original network, because while there are 24 destinations, the frequencies are limited. We used to fly an average of 450 flights a day, now we’re 40 to 50 flights daily.”

The airline, Iyog said, is currently reviewing its operation processes, using “this opportunity to drive digital adoption and accelerate digitalization.” 

In streamlining operational procedures, CEB is currently resizing and reshaping the company. Earlier in July, the airline reportedly will lay off 800 more employees by August, the second wave of job cuts following the 4,000 workers laid off in June. 

“We have had to make the difficult decision to let go of about 25 percent of our workforce,” Iyog told Manila Standard. “We are trying to keep manpower intact, but the situation remains fluid. But rest assured that whatever actions are taken, we will be as transparent, respectful, and fair.”

Iyog pointed out that the additional cost to the operating expenses from the improved safety protocols enforced to ensure passengers and crew members’ safety has not been factored in yet. 

“In the larger and greater scheme of things, it is not the biggest cost we need to manage. The biggest cost is still fuel and other operating cost,” she clarified. 

What to expect when you fly

In a bid to regain passengers’ trust, CEB has implemented new disinfection protocols on top of the mandatory wearing of face masks, contactless processes of checking in and boarding, and requiring its employees to undergo a rapid test using FDA-approved test kits. 

“We changed our safety and sanitation process for passengers and employees and for our equipment because we know that coming out of this pandemic, the biggest concern of our passengers would be health and safety, along with economic concerns,” said Iyog. 

Each aircraft now undergoes deep interior cleaning and disinfection daily, from every seven days pre-pandemic. The lavatory will be cleaned every 30 minutes or after every passenger uses the facility. 

To keep a safe distance among guests, Iyog said the airline uses a “seating algorithm” that puts spaces between passengers in-flight. “If you’re traveling together, you can be seated together. If you’re traveling separately, we will put one seat between each group of passengers.” 

Cabin air is filtered and recirculated, bringing fresh air that’s 99.97 percent virus-free every three minutes. “The only surface the refreshed air touches before your nose and mouth is the top of your head. It comes from top to bottom then goes to the floor and gets recirculated again,” explained Iyog.

Passengers will also be required to dispose their garbage at the end of the flight, as well as stow and retrieve their hand-carry luggage from the overhead bins. In-flight meals are temporarily suspended to further limit interactions between crew and passenger. 

Topics: virus-free , Cebu Pacific , Candice Iyog , hand-carry luggage , Travel Fund
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