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PAL keen on acquiring $366-M Airbus A350-1000

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By Emmie V. Abadilla

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is interested in acquiring the new US$366-million Airbus A350-1000, which arrived in Manila for the first time yesterday for a series of demonstration flights, PAL President and COO Jaime J. Bautista told reporters.

Earlier, the flag carrier announced that it 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. However, only six of these aircraft are firm orders and the rest can still be amended.

Already, Qatar Airlines has ordered thirty A350-1000s, the first of which will be delivered next week, while Cathay Pacific has ordered 27, according to Airbus  A350 XWB Marketing Manager Customer Affairs Dr. Marie Lalo.

Yesterday’s Airbus aircraft visit in Manila was part of a three-week Demonstration Tour bringing the A350-1000 test aircraft across the Asia-Pacific region.

The A350-1000 is Airbus latest and largest wide-body in the twin-aisle category. With a seven-meter longer fuselage, the A350-1000’s space for premium cabin products is 40% larger than its smaller sibling, the A350-900.

The A350-1000 accommodates 366 passengers in a typical three-class configuration. It is a long-range aircraft with a range of 14,800 kilometers at entry into service enabling non-stop service from Manila to Europe or North America.

PAL is also ordering A350-900s, which has 95% common systems part numbers and same Type Rating as the A350-1000, says Bautista.

Notably, the A350 XWB Family has been successful in the Asia-Pacific region, where 14 major airlines have ordered a total of 287 aircraft, representing one third of the 854 orders recorded so far worldwide.

Carriers from the region already flying the A350-900 for their long haul operations include Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.

In recent years Airbus has recorded several high profile orders from airlines in the country. These included contracts from PAL covering a total of 60 of A320 Family aircraft and 23 A330s.

In 2011, Airbus finalized a major new order with Cebu Pacific for 30 of the latest generation A321neo, reaffirming the fast-growing carrier’s all-Airbus fleet status in the jet category.

Airbus’ relationship with the Philippines dates back to the manufacturer’s early days, when in 1978 PAL placed an initial order for the original A300B4 – the world’s first wide-body twin jet airliner. The first aircraft arrived in Manila in 1979.

Today, PAL operates 26 A320 Family aircraft on its domestic and regional network, 15 A330s on services across the Asia Pacific and the Middle East and six A340s on long-range routes to the United States.

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