By Emmie V. Abadilla
Philippine Airlines (PAL) is spending US$2 billion for 15 aircraft to expand its total fleet number to around 100 planes, to be one of the youngest fleets in the region, PAL President and COO Jaime J. Bautista told reporters yesterday.
Todate, the flag carrier has a total of 88 aircraft but has already retired one aircraft this month, a Q400, and another one next year, both aircraft being 16 to 17 years old.
After receiving the 4-Star Certification from Skytrax, PAL will now undertake major initiatives to follow through on this historic milestone and sustain its rating.
First in the line up is introducing a new line of aircraft tailored for mid-size markets on medium-range routes.
The new Airbus A321neo is slated for delivery starting March, to be deployed on the new Manila-Brisbane nonstop route by May.
With the A321neo, PAL becomes the first Asian airline to use a narrow-bodied aircraft equipped with 12 full-flat Business Class seats.
All 168 seats (Business Class and Economy) on the A321neo have in-seat video monitors – another first for PAL’s single-aisle aircraft fleet – loaded with more than 300 hours of in-flight entertainment. Economy seats are more spacious with wider legroom.
The eco-friendly A321neo engines generate less noise and can fly up to a maximum of eight hours. The whole cabin also offers free Wi-Fi connectivity.
A total of six A321neo and four Airbus A350-900s will be delivered within 2018.
The A350-900s will start arriving in June, allowing PAL to deploy non-stop flights to the US East Coast through the polar region, along with more routes to European cities.
First up is nonstop service from Manila to New York J.F. Kennedy Airport by October, with services to Seattle, Chicago and a point in Western Europe in the pipeline afterwards.
PAL will continue to beef up its flight networks originating from Clark, Cebu and Davao, as part of its “multi-hub” network strategy.
A new Davao-Siargao route will open in March 2018, even as PAL hikes Cebu-Bangkok services from thrice weekly to daily for the upcoming April to October summer schedule period.
In line with its evolving global airline status providing vital international links, PAL will continue to offer the only direct airline services between the Philippines and Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the US East and West Coasts, Hawaii, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the only flights between Bohol and Korea, and between Cebu and the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Nagoya.
The A321neos will be used in the non-stop flights to Brisbane as well as from Manila to Sapporo, New Delhi and Mumbai. Another major initiative is the ongoing construction of a 900-square-meter, two-story Mabuhay Lounge to rise adjacent to the North Wing of PAL’s Terminal 2 hub at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The new lounge will have a wide dining area, private showers, massage area, meeting rooms, bar lounge, children’s play area, speedy Wi-Fi connection and the signature PAL buffet area.
The lounge – ideal for departing passengers as well as those with connecting PAL flights – will accommodate Business Class passengers as well as Premier Elite and Million Milers members of PAL’s Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer program.
The existing T2 International Mabuhay Lounge will be maintained for other premium passengers.