Legacy carrier Philippine Airlines has formally introduced its two brand-new aircraft—the Airbus A350 XWB (eXtra Wide Body) and Airbus A321neo—in a rollout ceremony attended by President Rodrigo Duterte at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
The two of the most advanced commercial aircraft are set to operate longer range routes to North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region.
Duterte, who led the traditional ceremonial welcome for the new jets at the Lufthansa Technik Philippines hangar in Pasay City, was joined by PAL chairman and chief executive officer Lucio Tan, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista, along with officials of airplane manufacturer Airbus and financial firm SMBC Aviation Capital.
The event coincided with the birthday celebration of Tan who has served as PAL chairman since 1995.
“As the PAL family works together to achieve our dream of becoming a five-star global carrier, we have achieved great strides in support of this goal. We are in the midst of a fleet modernization program. We are also focused on route network expansion and have improved our services to our passengers. I am happy to welcome the A321neo and A350 to our fleet,” Tan said.
Bautista, for his part, said that “through these new airplanes, we aim to reclaim our stature as one of the world’s best airlines—to be a beacon of hope … that Filipinos can set the standard of excellence and be the best at what we do. This is the vision of our Chairman, Dr. Tan. This is the legacy of Philippine Airlines to our country.”
“We are pleased to welcome Philippine Airlines as the latest operator of the A350 XWB,” said Eric Schulz, chief commercial officer of Airbus. “The A350 XWB has set new standards for long haul flights, combining extra-long range capability with the lowest possible operating costs and the highest standard of comfort. We are confident that the A350 XWB will be a great success with Philippine Airlines and will enable the airline to reinforce its position as one of Asia’s leading international carriers.”
Peter Barret, CEO of SMBC Aviation Capital, the aircraft leasing company that financed PAL’s A350-900 XWB, added, “This delivery is an important milestone for SMBC Aviation Capital as it marks the first delivery to our new customer, Philippine Airlines. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest-growing markets in terms of air travel and we are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to expand our footprint here with the delivery of the first two A350s to Philippine Airlines.” SMBC is a principal sponsor of the delivery event in Manila.
PAL’s A350 sets a new standard by allowing PAL to fly nonstop almost halfway around the world on the longest routes to be flown by a Philippine carrier.
The A350’s range and efficiency are the result of its all-new design and state of the art technology, starting with advanced Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines. The A350 can fly up to 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km.) and boasts of quieter cabin (up to 4 times less noise), making it the quietest twin-aisle aircraft to date.
The A350 XWB structure, 70 percent of which is made of an advanced material including 53 percent composites, is not only lightweight and very strong but also costs significantly less to maintain.
PAL spokesperson Ma. Cielo Villaluna said PAL flights to the United States and Europe will get a major boost, as the A350 will be deployed on nonstop Manila-New York JFK and Manila-London Heathrow routes by the end of October 2018.
She added that services to other points in North America and/or Europe are expected to follow as more aircraft join the fleet over the next 12 months, including possible routes to Seattle, Chicago and a point in Western Europe.
PAL placed six firm orders for Airbus A350-900s and options for additional six. Four will be delivered in 2018, and other two in mid-2019.
Meanwhile, PAL’s new A321 neo gives the airline the ability to match the right kind of aircraft to mid-size markets, and thus to better pioneer new routes and develop new sources of passenger traffic.
The NEOs generate reduced noise inside and out, contributing to the aircraft’s eco-friendliness and sustainability. The aircraft interiors showcase modern innovations in cabin layout and seat design that enable more efficient use of cabin space that maximizes passenger comfort.
The 168-seater Airbus A321neo has 12 seats in business class and 156 seats in economy class. The business class cabin with a 2-2 configuration offers generous seat pitch of 60 inches and a seat width of up to 23 inches. The Business class seat also turns into a full-flat bed with a length measuring 78 inches. The Economy cabins, on the other hand, have 3-3 configuration with a pitch of up to 32 inches, thus ensuring better legroom; the seat width is 18 inches, with a recline of up to 5 inches.
The inflight entertainment onboard the A321neo is provided by personal TV screens embedded in all cabin seats. Free Wi-Fi is available (subject to time and volume caps) with affordable renewal plans.
The new planes are now flying nonstop between Manila and Brisbane, with the Brisbane Airport Corporation hailing the July 2nd launch of PAL’s A321neo flights as “a tremendous day for Brisbane Airport” that “opens up a world of opportunity” for growing travel markets.
The A321neo will also pioneer PAL’s new Manila-Sapporo (Japan) route in September, marking another historic first for Philippine and Japanese aviation, with Sydney and other destinations to follow in the Asia-Pacific region.
A total of six A321neos will be delivered within 2018, and another 15 expected to come into the PAL fleet in coming years.