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PAL eyes new generation aircraft for US, Europe

MANILA, Philippines - National flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL), jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is looking at “new generation” Boeing and Airbus aircraft to complete its fleet renewal program.

PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said the airline is now evaluating the next batch of orders after completing the order for over 70 aircraft.

“We are in the process of evaluating the next batch of orders. At the end of the day, our aspiration is for PAL to operate at least 100 aircraft so there will be economies of scale,” Ang said in a press conference.

He pointed out that the next batch of orders would probably include “new generation” aircraft such as the Boeing 777-X that has a flying range of about 17 hours and the Airbus A351 with a range of about 14 hours.

“Today if you are going to buy, you don’t want to buy the old generation aircraft. You want to buy the new generation aircraft,” he said.

According to him, PAL has already placed the order for over 70 aircraft mostly from Airbus.

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Of the initial order of Airbus aircraft, he said about 35 units including 15 A330, 14 A321, and six A340 have been delivered.

PAL formally announced the retirement of its fleet of five Boeing 747 or the Jumbo Jet that were ordered in 1979 to serve various routes in the US, Europe, Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

He said one Boeing 747 was retired six months ago while the remaining four would be retired in the coming months.

He explained that PAL is retiring and selling 20 aging aircraft including the four Boeing 747, four A340, and eight A330.

“This year we will be taking out 20 aircraft because the brandnew aircraft have arrived. In concept, these aircraft have been sold already but I cannot give details because the deal has not yet been closed,” Ang said.

PAL is now gearing up for additional flights to the US including New York, Chicago, Florida, and other major cities after the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) upgraded the country’s aviation safety rating back to Category 1 last April 9 after being downgraded to Category 2 in January 2008.

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

It is now using Boeing 777 for its flights to Los Angeles and would start using the fuel efficient aircraft for flights to San Francisco starting June. For its flights to Honolulu and Guam, PAL would continue to utilize new wide body Airbus A330-300s and single-aisle A320-200s.

“I think we shouls be able to go to New York via Vancouver towards October,” he said.

He added that PAL is looking at Tokyo and Korea as possible stop over for flights to New York, Chicago, and Florida.

According to him, the airline is now finalizing a code sharing agreement with All Nippon Airways of Japan after signing a similar agreement with Etihad Airways earlier.

Furthermore, Ang said PAL is still pursuing flights to Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt after mounting direct flights to London last November as the European Union lifted a ban imposed in 2010 that prevented PAL from entering European airspace due to aviation safety concerns.

“It is now easy to fly anywhere in Europe, the US or any new destination. But we have to wait for the viability study for those destinations,” he said.



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