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PAL, Cebu Pac keen on new Airbus for long-haul flights

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) and Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) have expressed keen interest in the new aircraft of Airbus as both airlines pursue the expansion of their long haul operations.

PAL president Jaime Bautista and Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei attended Wednesday the 90-minute test flight of the all-new A350 XWB (extra wide body) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 (NAIA-2).

The new aircraft is the latest addition to the market-leading Airbus wide body product line with a seating capacity of 369 passengers in a two-class layout.

The A350 was specifically designed by Airbus for Asian airlines since it could fly on routes up to 8,000 nautical miles for a non-stop service from Manila to Europe or North America.

It features the latest aerodynamic design, cabon fiber fuselage and wings as well as a new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine that translates to a 25-percent reduction in fuel burn and emissions.

Bautista told reporters that PAL is considering the A350 as possible replacement for the airline’s long-haul fleet including the A340 and the Boeing 777.

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“We are studying this very carefully. This is a long haul aircraft so it can replace the long haul aircraft of any airline. It can be a replacement for the A340 or Boeing 777,” he said.

PAL is finalizing a long-term plan including the acquisition of new aircraft for its long-haul operations as it is looking for a foreign strategic partner that could acquire a 40 percent stake in PAL within the next three years.

“There will be a need for us to get more long haul aircraft as we continue to expand. We are looking at the US and Europe,” Bautista said.

For his part, Gokongwei said the budget carrier is considering the new A350 but currently has no need for the aircraft as it has no definitive plans yet for new long haul destinations.

“I think your fleet strategy follows your network strategy so it really depends on what routes you plan to carry. This A350 is very ideal for long haul and currently we really don’t have long haul routes that this point that requires this kind of range,” he said.

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