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PAL to field Boeing 777s for US flights

MANILA, Philippines - National flag carrier Philippines Airlines Inc. (PAL), jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), got the green light from the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) to use more fuel efficient and brand new aircraft for flights to the US.

The approval to use the brand new Boeing 777 instead of its Boeing 747 for flights to the US comes less than a month after the US-FAA upgraded the aviation safety rating of the Philippines back to Category 1 from Category 2 last April 9.

PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said in a text message that the US-FAA has already approved the use of more modern and fuel efficient Boeing 777 for flights to the US instead of the aging Boeing 747.

“Yes it was approved by the US-FAA,” Ang confirmed.

Ang said earlier PAL could save at least $160 million a year consisting of $100 million in fuel costs and $60 million in maintenance costs by using the more efficient Boeing 777 for flights to the US as a result of the upgrade.

With the upgrade, PAL is set to immediately deploy a fleet of six newly-acquired Boeing 777-300ER aircraft worth $1.2 billion for its long-haul flights to the US.

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Currently, PAL operates a total of 26 weekly flights to the US, with frequencies to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam.

For its flights to Honolulu and Guam , Ang said PAL would continue to utilize the new wide-body Airbus A330-300s and single-aisle A320-200s.

PAL is initially looking at flying to New York and Chicago within the year. It used to fly to New York until 1997 after which it was forced to stop due to the Asian financial crisis.

Since the entry of SMC in April 2012, PAL embarked on a massive refleeting program involving the acquisition of 100 aircraft.  It entered into two separate Purchase Agreements with Airbus in August worth $7 billion for the firm order of 40 44 Airbus A320 aircraft and options for 20 Airbus A320 for delivery in fiscal years 2014 to 2020 and September worth $2.5 billion, for a firm order of 10 Airbus A330-300 aircraft and options for 10 aircraft for delivery in fiscal years 2014 to 2016.

Based on its website, the airline has an operating fleet of 53 aircraft consisting of six Boeing 777-300ER, four Boeing 747-400, eight Airbus A340-300, 13 A330-300, 12 A320-200, six A321-231, and four A319-100.

With the refleeting, PAL has retired 20 aging aircraft as part of efforts to transform the company into “Asia’s airline of choice” as “2013 was a clean-up year as the airline went through the costly yet necessary fleet renewal process.

PAL would own one of Asia ’s youngest fleet at 3.5 years with the completion of a modernization program that involves the replacement of 20 aging aircraft with modern, fuel-efficient planes.

Ang, who is also president and COO of SMC, said the diversified conglomerate is set to submit to Malacanang the proposed $10 billion airport that would replace the congested and more than three-dacade old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The company was supposed to submit the plan last week but President Aquino was busy US President Barack Obama.


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