Philippine Airlines Considers A321neo LR, Sheds Light on Upcoming Fleet Plan

As Philippine Airlines prepares to finalize its new fleet plan, the new-generation A321 aircraft on order may play a vital role in the future growth of the airline as it seeks to open and expand medium-haul markets. Philippine Airlines currently has thirty A321neo aircraft on order for delivery beginning in 2017. However, some orders may be converted to the newly launched A321neoLR.

philippine airlines a321ceo
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
The A321neoLR is a recently launched long-haul variant of the popular A321neo. The variant is capable of flying on routes of up to eight hours. In a two-class layout, it could transport up to 206 passengers up to 7,400 kilometers.

Philippine Airlines, under the leadership of Jaime Bautista, sees an opportunity to expand the medium-haul operations of the national flag carrier using the new-generation A321neo aircraft.  PAL is currently expecting delivery of thirty A321neo aircraft beginning in 2017. The A321neo offers considerably more range over the A321ceo, which is currently operating in the fleet.

According to Bautista, Philippine Airlines is contemplating converting some of the A321neo orders to the A321neoLR. Bautista sees an opportunity to use the aircraft to expand the carrier's presence in Australia and is even considering installing lie-flat Business Class seats on the aircraft.

If Philippine Airlines opted to use the A321neoLR on routes to Australia, it is likely that flights from Manila to Brisbane would switch to non-stop from their current routing via Darwin. Brisbane is a stronger market for Philippine Airlines compared to Darwin. But according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, PAL does not currently have a suitable aircraft to fly to Brisbane non-stop.

Philippine Airlines also believes that the A321neoLR could be used on services to Sydney and Melbourne. Service to Perth was launched via Darwin in 2013 but was quickly cancelled due to weak demand. It remains unclear if PAL will attempt the route again. However, PAL is due to launch service to Cairns in December 2015 using one of the carrier's A320 aircraft. The Cairns flights will continue on to Auckland, New Zealand.

Auckland is unfortunately not within the range of the A321neoLR. Philippine Airlines was previously contemplating expansion in Australia last year, when it was under the leadership of San Miguel Corporation. Former PAL Chief Ramon Ang devised a plan to launch direct flights to Perth and Brisbane utilising five leased ex-Shanghai Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft from Boeing Capital Corporation.

The plan was immediately shelved when the Lucio Tan Group regained control of Philippine Airlines. That has proven to be a wise decision given that Airbus believes the A321neoLR will be able to provide 25 to 30 percent lower operating costs than the Boeing 757-200 depending on the seat configuration. The A321neoLR has been designed to serve routes where a wide-body aircraft would not be economical.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines continues to develop and finalise its long-term fleet plan. The national flag carrier recently announced the acquisition of two additional Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to be acquired next year. In addition, the carrier is close to finalising an order for a new long-haul aircraft to replace the ageing A340-300 fleet.

Philippine Airlines is now leaning towards the A350-900 as the preferred aircraft to join the long-haul fleet. These aircraft will be used for expansion in North America and Europe. It is a prudent choice given that Cebu Pacific is also contemplating acquiring the same aircraft to begin its own long-haul flights to the west coast of North America.

Philippine Airlines will retire two of the A340-300 aircraft when it accepts delivery of the two new Boeing 777 aircraft, which are likely to be deployed on the San Francisco and Los Angeles routes. The Lucio Tan Group is taking a much more disciplined approach to fleet planning and capacity compared to San Miguel Corporation.

Under the new plan, the A340 aircraft is expected to be completely retired from the fleet in 2018. Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines is eager to find an aircraft that will be able to service the Manila to New York route on a non-stop basis without payload restrictions. Toronto will continue to be served on a one-stop basis via Vancouver.

Until Philippine Airlines will be able to acquire additional long-haul aircraft, it will be forced to pursue expansion with its A320 and A330 aircraft, which are primarily limited to regional and medium-haul routes. However, PAL will not be ordering any further A330 aircraft as part of its upcoming fleet plan. Instead, it will look at reconfiguring existing aircraft to improve service and yields on its existing medium-haul routes.

20 comments:

  1. The 787 dash 8 or 9 is ideal for Australian markets, as well as capable of reaching Auckland nonstop. And it has lower capacity than the A330, A330neo or A350 XWB, and commonality with the 777. They could also used them for high-density domestic routes like Cebu and Davao to compete with Cebu Pacific, which is already using their A330 on those routes. On the other hand, PAL will make the right choice of choosing the A350 XWB for its routes to New York and Europe nonstop. And they should as well order the 777X as a potential replacement for their 777-300ER in the long term, and to give them the opportunity to introduce new world class cabin products. The A321neoLR is a great program though, this will give PAL an edge in the Australian market, where Cebu Pacific is failing. They could also focus on Australia and New Zealand, not only the North American market, since more and more Australians and New Zealanders are already visiting the country. I wonder if the A32neoLR will feature a two-axle main landing gear just like the 757 instead of single-axle present in the A321 and A321neo? Presumably because, the additional fuel tanks will increase its MTOW and thus will need additional braking power.

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  2. Wow! You really know your math, keep on posting!

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  3. PAL should just upgrade all A321neo orders to A321neoLR. No brainer! It can be used as an A321 with the flexibility to go far.

    I'm a Boeing guy, but if PAL is going to get the A350 to replace A340s, then they should get MORE A350s to replace B777-300ERs as well (standard fleet/spare parts). No more talk on B787s and B777Xs.

    PAL does have a plane to fly to Brisbane and Auckland direct (A330), but they don't want to use it!

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    1. It's no brainer that PAL should buy the B777X to replace the B77W as they will have the same commonality rating.

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    2. But you should consider the current availability of the delivery slots of these plane your talking. The planes are not available as a showroom car. So you need to evaluate the availability and your fleet expansion program as this affects everything you plan.

      B77W are readily available that's why they pushing for this as B777X are available in 2020+.

      -wEel^

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  4. With all these new aircraft orders, I'm just wondering where will they park these airframes considering NAIA's notoriously congested n the new airport is still a far fetched dream!

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    1. If you read the entirety of the content, these are going to be replacement of the older planes, so the older planes will be returned to the leasing company and the new planes will take the slots of the former. I hope this solves your question thus giving them capacity with the same number of slot that they have.

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  5. Make sure that PAL becomes profitable first before talking and talking about aircraft replacements! In the meantime, leave Jaime alone so he can concentrate on where to find the next dollar or euro to settle his mortgage bills including high-percentage interest charges! Whew, que dolor!

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    1. PAL has been profitable lately, que puedes dicer amigo?

      They need this aircraft changes to make their fleet lean and new, and mostly of them are slated for replacement of their existing fleet, the A320's. Even the A350's are replacements to the aged A340's (como jamon serano porque son aviones antes de Iberia). Even CebPac is doing fleet renewal with their ATR 72-600 orders recently in Paris.

      I think every airline is fighting their mortgage bills and interest rates for all their leased planes, es que dolor para todos... If you cant manage these, then why go to airline business in the first place?

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    2. Ohala, amigo! Inshallah, saddik!

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  6. Bakit hindi pa profitable ang PAL ngayon?

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    1. Late ka nga sa party...obvious d ka nga nagbabasa. Last year ,philippine airlines is the sole full service carrier post profits here in southeast asia.first quarter of 2015 pal still post profits at yong iba medju naka recover na. Punta ka nga sa center for asia pacific aviation or capa at magbasa ng mga airline news.

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  7. They should order or consider Airbus A350XWB or Boeing 787 to replace Airbus A340's.

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    1. They are already considering the A350-900 for their A340 replacement, the question is when will they order these birds as they haven't placed it recently in the Paris air show...

      -wEel^

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  8. a321 neo LR can be used on medium haul routes with low demand. in this case, capacity will be maximized.

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  9. Dear PAL, If you plan to acquire additional aircraft, no matter what model, please don't forget your economy class passengers. IFEs with USB ports are needed instead of the old school overhead screens or purchasing WiFi time, decent legroom, warm hospitality and other amenities. If PAL desires to be a WORLD CLASS carrier, it's in ALL CLASSES. Hint: Singapore, Cathay and Emirates. Best wishes!

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  10. We need a new airport ASAP

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  11. 검증카 먹튀검증 안전놀이터

    ReplyDelete

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