Navigating through turbulent skies: Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei leans on valuable lessons from his dad   

It was sometime in the late 1980s, recalls Cebu Pacific president and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei, when his late father, John Gokongwei Jr. aka “Big John” first toyed with the idea of starting his own airline. 

He did not possess any experience in running an airline – yet this did not deter the older Gokongwei, nor did the prospect of going against an established goliath bother him. Besides, it was an upbeat period as the local aviation industry was steadily opening up with the liberalization of air travel. Plus, Big John loved to travel and had a fascination for airplanes as a kid.   

“He was in the United States at that time and read about a low-cost carrier called Southwest. That’s how all this started,” said Lance. “He came up to my office one day and said, ‘I started this airline—can you think of anyone who could help?’ For me, that meant he wanted me to help, so that’s what I did.” 

Marking 25 years of flying everyJuan  

Today, Cebu Pacific has literally come a long way as it marks 25 fruitful years since it first took to the skies in 1996. In the process, it has fulfilled the vision of Big John to make air travel accessible to more Filipinos. And while the airline known for offering low fares and great value has encountered its fair share of turbulent skies—not the least of which is the ongoing pandemic that has upended the global airline and tourism sector like never before—it has weathered many challenges under Lance Gokongwei’s steady, able leadership.  

And this, he credits to the many valuable life and business lessons that he picked-up from his dad whom he describes as a ‘classic entrepreneur’ and a visionary; learnings that guide him every step of the way in running Cebu Pacific and other Gokongwei family interests under JG Summit Holdings. “All the lessons my dad taught us – he taught not through words, but by example. And all the lessons he taught, guide me until now,” Lance shares. 

Lessons from Big John 

Even as a successful businessman, Big John never hesitated in seeking advice from others – a firm believer that learning never ends.  Says Lance: “You can never stop learning from others. Even when you’re the boss or the manager, you will benefit from the ideas of your colleagues.”  

If necessary, he continues, go ahead and tap the expertise of consultants and join industry groups that discuss problems in your field because “no matter what challenges arise, make sure to find the solution, even if it doesn’t come from yourself.”  

While musing on the business triumphs of his dad, including that of Cebu Pacific, Lance said in 2019: “’Till today, I think Dad was most successful with businesses that catered to every man, the common man, because that’s who he was himself.” 

Commitment to serve  

Amid the challenges the airline is facing today, Lance expresses gratitude to the passengers and customers who have trusted Cebu Pacific with their life’s important moments. “The unwavering support you have given us through the years propels us to pursue new opportunities, to usher #MoreSmilesAhead with everyJuan,” he says.   

Lance adds that Cebu Pacific stays committed in serving the public, with utmost safety, convenience, and fun in every flight. “Our strong team – from the flight crew to the operations team, to those working from home or offices across the network – remain true to their service in making sure you arrive to your destination as safe and comfortable as possible,” he says.   

“We have witnessed a lot of changes in 25 years – changes that enabled us to grow and reaffirm why we fly. As we celebrate this milestone, our commitment remains: to make the skies accessible for everyJuan of you in the years to come,” he adds. 

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