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Cebu Pacific to fly to Australia, Kuwait

MANILA -- Philippine budget carrier Cebu Pacific will launch direct flights to Australia and Kuwait by September.

     The airline will fly four times a week to the world's smallest continent and thrice-weekly to the Middle Eastern country from Manila using Airbus 330-300s, CEO Lance Gokongwei said Monday.

     Alex Reyes, general manager for long-haul operations, said the airline expects tourists and business travelers in the Philippines and Australia to fill one of the jetliners, and the 180,000 Filipinos living in Kuwait to take up the seats of the other.

     Reyes said regular fares on the new routes will be 30% cheaper than what other carriers currently charge. Such a price point could pressure Philippine Airlines, which has Sydney and Kuwait flights, and Qantas, which has Manila-Sydney flights.

     The new routes are expected to make money after six to 18 months of operations, Gokongwei said.

     In October, the airline launched its first ever long-haul service, to Dubai, after 16 years of focusing on domestic and Southeast Asia operations. The route, however, helped weigh down Cebu Pacific's first-quarter bottom-line, which plunged 86%, to 164.16 million pesos ($3.70 million). Much of the dive, though, can be blamed on the Philippine peso's depreciation and high fuel costs.

     The new destinations will give Cebu Pacific 26 international routes, information from the airline's website shows.

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