Cebu Pacific Air, the low cost airline out of the Philippines has been approved to fly from Manila to Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam starting in March. What does this mean for tourist in the Asia-Pacific region?
I find it interesting that they have finally got the green light on this. I remember when they only had a flight from Cebu to Manila back when they first launched. Filipinos joked that one day they would fly to the United States of America. The day that actually will do it has come. It has been a long road to get there. It looked like it would never happen because the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington DC did not like the safety record in the Philippines.
However, they watched as Cebu Pacific was able to successful go into regional markets. They saw them serve major routes like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. I am sure that helped them talk the FAA and the State Department into opening the route to Guam. My guess would be if they do well with the Guam route; Hawaii and Los Angeles will be on the radar for the low cost carrier! That is only my guess, though.
What the Guam route means for tourists?
One thing that will hard to overcome is many Filipinos can not go to the United States (we will cover that later), however, many tourist from developed countries will have no trouble visiting Guam. It will also be a great place for those guys doing “visa runs.” People can go to the Guam for the weekend for a few hundred bucks.
I am sure that the airline is planning for three groups to make the trip: upper class Filipinos, US Citizens living in the Philippines, and divers going to Micronesia or Marshall Islands. On the return flight they will have people from Guam to come to Palawan and Boracay!
The Philippines has alot of upper class Filipinos that have money. They also visas to the United States. Another problem they have is shopping. A weekend vacation to Guam filled with shopping at US stores will fix that problem. They will not mind paying $120 to make a round trip flight to go shopping in the United States. It is cheaper than shipping everything via Johnny Air for them.
The Philippines also has a sizable population of US citizens (white people) who would need to be on US soil for some things. A quick flight to Guam would also be helpful for them as well. As I said, it will also be a great “visa run” for some of these guys!
The third group is divers from around the world. They come to Coron to see the wrecks or dive at the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park for a few weeks. They want to head to either Palau, Yap or the rest of Micronesia. They will grab the Cebu Pacific flight to Guam and head on from there.
In addition, you will have families traveling from Guam to the Philippines to visit Palawan and Boracay for the weekend. It is good for tourism in the Philippines as well.
What about visas?
Filipinos will require US visa to travel to Guam (like anywhere in the United States but American Samoa) but the ones that have cash to spend and resort to visit will have a visa. It is relatively easy for the a Filipino to get a visa as long as they have a legit reason to be there. I am sure how many people have visas that are from the Philippines but the number is quite high.
Those coming from other nations like United Kingdom, Germany, Canada or Australia will not have any problem going to Guam as they are part of the waiver program. The countries that are currently on that list also include Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan.
The normal rules about people born in the freely associated States of the United States would apply. This includes people from Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. They can freely travel to Guam but have to follow the Impact Compact signed by United States Congress.
At the end of the day, the only ones that would really have to worry about visas is the Filipinos that do not currently have a visa to the United States. Most other people will be able to come to Guam easily.
Why I believe that Cebu Pacific is using this as a stepping stone
The founder, John Gokongwei, has said for many years that they have a goal to have a trans-pacific flight. Airlines in the Philippines know that having a Manila-Los Angeles route is a cash cow. They can fill up the cabin every day making that long haul trip. Philippine Airlines has said alive because of that route in its’ lean years.
Cebu Pacific has to prove to the US Government that they can compete in the US markets. They will use this Guam route to do that. They might even take a total loss on it just to get that Los Angeles route that will make them the big money.
It is my guess that within a year or two, they will be trying to get a Manila to Honolulu trip to cater to the 342,095 Filipino-Americans living in the Hawaii Islands. After that, all eyes will be set on Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I could be wrong but I think the pacific routes are just about getting those long haul ones that they know they can fill every plane that makes that trip. It is what they are after. This is where they will make their money.