- Stock Code:
- Date Founded:
- Guillaume Faury
- Headquarters Location:
- Toulouse, France
- Key Product Lines:
- Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380
- Business Type:
Cebu Pacific, the Philippines’ biggest low-cost carrier, has been connecting Manila and Singapore for several years. Flight 5J 814 flies daily between Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and is typically operated by the airline’s narrowbody fleet. However, on September 28th, flight 5J 814 was slightly more unique than usual.
Cebu Pacific’s maiden SAF flight
The flight operating on Wednesday was actually its first-ever commercial passenger flight powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), making Cebu Pacific the first Philippines carrier to introduce SAF into its commercially scheduled operations. Produced by Neste and supplied by Shell Eastern Petroleum, the airline’s Airbus A321neo registered RP-C4123 was uplifted with 35% blended SAF in Singapore before it took off for Manila.
Celebrating Cebu Pacific’s sustainable milestone was Yeo Kia Thye, Managing Director of Airport Operations Planning and Airside at Changi Airport Group, who said:
“We applaud Cebu Pacific for taking the first step on their SAF journey and are honored that they have chosen to do so from Changi Airport. Changi Airport Group looks forward to supporting more airlines on their SAF journey, to power sustainable air travel together.”
Also celebrating such a milestone in sustainability was Alex Reyes, the airline’s Chief Strategy Officer, as he highlighted:
“Our first passenger flight using SAF is a culmination of months of cooperation with valued partners and is an important component of our sustainability program.”
Cebu Pacific’s first SAF commercial flight from Changi Airport to Manila. Photo: Cebu Pacific
Cebu Pacific is no stranger to SAF
While Wednesday’s flight might have been Cebu Pacific’s first SAF-powered commercial passenger service, it was certainly not the budget carrier’s first time with SAF. In fact, Cebu Pacific was the first-ever Asian low-cost carrier to incorporate SAF into its operations in May when it took delivery of a brand-new Airbus A330neo from Toulouse to Manila, and SAF was used to power the entire flight.
Subsequently, the airline began committing to ensuring all remaining Airbus neo delivery flights will be powered using SAF, which is relatively uncommon within the global aviation industry. The second SAF-powered delivery happened in July when Cebu Pacific welcomed a new Airbus A320neo from Hamburg, and this year’s third SAF-powered delivery will be another Airbus A330neo, with the date set sometime in November. The final delivery for this year will be another A320neo aircraft in December.
However, as much as the airline is committed to using SAF to decarbonize, like with its commitment to powering its delivery flights sustainably, Cebu Pacific has mentioned that the maiden SAF passenger flight remains a one-off occasion for the time being. The low-cost carrier has noted that given the current market’s low demand and even lower supply for SAF, obtaining it for commercially scheduled flight operations right now has become a slight challenge regarding availability and finances.
Nonetheless, Cebu Pacific is also focused on ensuring that SAF supplies become more readily available in the Philippines for more SAF-powered flights in the future. Reyes continued by emphasizing:
“SAF will help the aviation industry reduce its carbon emissions. We encourage more producers to increase the supply of SAF in the region.”
Cebu Pacific partners with Shell Aviation
A considerable part of the airline’s efforts in ensuring SAF becomes more readily available was when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shell Aviation in Singapore on September 27th, a day before its maiden SAF passenger flight. Under the five-year strategic partnership, Shell will supply Cebu Pacific with an initial supply volume of at least 25 kilotons of blended SAF per year from 2026 to 2031 within the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
And besides the long-term supply to Cebu Pacific, the MoU also aims to improve the collaboration on making SAF more widely available worldwide. Jan Toschka, President of Shell Aviation, highlighted the significance of Cebu Pacific’s intent by saying:
“We are excited to work with Cebu Pacific in this five-year collaboration as we both believe that SAF is the best option for aviation to decarbonize by 2050. This agreement is testimony to the growing demand in the Asia-Pacific region, and we are ready to meet that need.”
According to Toschka, the current global use of SAF is approximately 2%. While it is popular in terms of sustainable benefits, it is not cheap for airlines to buy and equally not cheap to produce. So even though the agreement with Cebu Pacific might only be the actions of a lone carrier, it is still a progressive start as the airline’s interest does help to stir up more demand for SAF. And the slight rise in demand can serve to decrease the cost of production and purchase, even if by only a bit. Keeping this downward trend for the future is the ultimate goal of the partnership between Cebu Pacific and Shell Aviation.
The supplied SAF will be a ‘drop-in’ replacement for fossil fuels, comprised of 100% renewable waste and raw materials like animal fat waste and cooking oil. Photo: Airbus
Cebu Pacific’s future sustainability goals
As one of the greener airlines in the Asia-Pacific region, Cebu Pacific’s fleet consists primarily of Airbus aircraft like the Airbus A320, 321, 330ceos, and neos fitted with new engines. And since SAF’s chemical and physical characteristics ensure that it does not require any adaptations or modifications to the aircraft or engines, the airline’s existing and future Airbus fleet can operate with up to 50% blended SAF.
Given the aircraft’s compatibility with blended SAF and the aircraft’s ability to allow Cebu Pacific to consume approximately 20% less fuel per flight and still carry more passengers than the older ceo models, the low-cost carrier aims to transition to an all-Neo fleet with new engines by 2028. Cebu Pacific also plans to incorporate blended SAF for its entire commercial network by 2030, mentioning the possibility of starting with domestic flights before expanding internationally, but again, such opportunities will still be determined by the availability of SAF supplies in the future.