Philippine airline Cebu Pacific Air has launched a new route to Dubai, marking the low-cost airline’s first long-haul service.

The first flight landed at Dubai International airport in the evening on 7 October.

The airline is operating seven flights a week between Manila and Dubai, offering fares it says can be up to 35 per cent lower than existing carriers.

The new route is being promoted to the millions of Philippine nationals that live in Dubai and the wider GCC region. Currently, most travellers to the Philippines have to take several connecting flights to keep the cost of the journey low.

Cebu Pacific aims to generate revenue by converting a great proportion of the Philippine community into more frequent flyers, rather than trying to take market share away from the region’s legacy airlines, such as Dubai-based Emirates.

“Typically, Philippine nationals might only go home every two years as it is so expensive. Now they can fly back more frequently. That is the market we are targeting,” says Alex Reyes, long-haul division, general manager at Cebu Pacific Air. “If you are only trying to steal market share, you are doing something wrong,” he says.  

The airline is launching the route with two new widebody Airbus A330-300 aircraft.  It has leasing agreements in place and will acquire a further six Airbus aircraft over the next year.

Cebu Pacific is looking to open up other Middle East routes, including flights to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The airline is planning to manage the costs of running a long-haul flight under a low-cost carrier model by keeping the weight it carries on board as low as possible, requiring passengers to book meals ahead of the flight to avoid wastage and not offering any form of business class.

The launch of the Cebu Pacific route follows news that Philippine Airlines has started flights to Abu Dhabi International airport after 15-year absence from the UAE.