Philippine Airlines Considers Replacement & Expansion of Bombardier Fleet

Philippine Airlines is planning to replace its fleet of Bombardier turboprop aircraft in the coming year as the leases of five of the nine existing aircraft in its fleet expire. According to the national flag carrier, they will most likely replace the current fleet with the same type of aircraft.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG 

PAL Express currently operates a fleet of five Bombardier Q400 aircraft, which are fifteen years old and leased from Nordic Aviation. In addition, the carrier operates four Bombardier Q300 aircraft. Three of those aircraft are owned by the carrier, while the fourth is under lease.

According to Jaime Bautista, President of Philippine Airlines, the company is assessing its need for smaller aircraft in an effort to better serve the country's regional airports. "We have nine turboprop airplanes right now, we may replace them or add more. We are considering the same aircraft - maybe a Q300 or Q400, or even a smaller jet that can carry 50-70 passengers," said Bautista. "We have more than 70 airports in the Philippines and we serve only around 30 of them."

Philippine Airlines hopes to take delivery of the more efficient Q400 aircraft to strengthen its domestic operations in 2016. Earlier this year, Cebu Pacific made the decision to replace and double its existing fleet of turboprops when it placed an order for sixteen ATR 72-600 aircraft at the Paris Air Show. The budget carrier plans to use the aircraft to expand their regional operations from secondary airports and improve inter-island connectivity.

It remains unclear how many aircraft Philippine Airlines will order if it decides to expand its turboprop fleet under a lease or purchase agreement. Although PAL has expressed interest in continuing to operate Bombardier turboprop aircraft, it is unknown if there are other aircraft under consideration such as the Bombardier C-Series aircraft.

The Bombardier C-Series is the world's first new narrow-body aircraft design in twenty-seven years. The next generation aircraft is designed to offer up to 15 percent lower overall operating costs and up to 20 percent fuel savings versus competing aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. In addition, the C-Series is capable of taking off and landing at airports that Airbus aircraft are unable to use due to runway constraints.

The C-Series CS100 model is capable of taking off at maximum take off weight with just 3,999 feet of runway while landing at maximum landing weight requires just 4,400 feet. The Airbus A319 requires 7,100 feet of runway to take off at maximum take off weight. The CS100 will open up new route opportunities, especially from the new Caticlan Airport, as it carries a maximum range of 5,463 kilometres, which is unparalleled by any other aircraft in its class.

Image Source: AIN

The new Caticlan Airport is an ideal candidate for the C-Series aircraft. When the runway extension is complete, aircraft will have up to 6,889 feet to take-off. This gives the C-Series plenty of room to operate non-stop flights from Boracay-Caticlan to places as far away as Perth, Australia without payload restrictions. The aircraft is ideal for long and thin domestic or international routes.

A number of airports in the Philippines are unable to handle Airbus aircraft due to runway limitations. These airports include Busuanga, Basco, El Nido, Naga, and Virac among many others. The limitations of these airports have created new opportunities for specially designed aircraft with short take off and landing ability like the British Aerospace 146 operated by SkyJet Airlines. The Bombardier C-Series is likely to be an aircraft that Philippine Airlines will want to consider in the future given the limitations of the country's airports and limited resources for timely infrastructure development.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines is almost ready to announce an order for eight brand new wide-body aircraft. The carrier stated that a decision will be made within the year for either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350 XWB.

The new aircraft will be used to cut the airline's fuel and maintenance costs, while increasing flights to the United States and Europe. The arrival of the aircraft in either 2017 or 2018 will also enable PAL to retire its ageing and unpopular A340-300 fleet. "There are proposals from Airbus and Boeing but we are not yet ready to announce which airplane we will choose," said Bautista. "It will be very efficient if we operate the same type of plane."

It is widely believed that Philippine Airlines favours the Airbus A350 XWB for its long-range capability, that would enable the aircraft to serve Manila to New York flights non-stop without payload restrictions. "Range is very important especially for non-stop flights. We want to be sure that these aircraft will fly to the destinations that we'd like to reach," added Bautista. "Secondly, we need to know the efficiency in terms of fuel."


  1. The dash 8-400 is a good aircraft for Philippine domestic operations, fast and range from Basvo to Tawi Tawi, the C series would, after the initial heavier aircraft, new types are always heavier, maybe get discounts for fuel consumption. But stick with Airbus for long haul, cross crew qualification save millions of pesos.

  2. Davao to Manado and Mindanao to Sabah please. Taking the ferry has been very inconvenient for many Filipinos and Indonesians.

  3. This will be good news to the C-series development if PAL would consider a handful of them to serve domestic thin routes. With current developments on these birds are improving, this will be a good sign and would be viable for these legs the previous poster mentioned.

    If the new A320 neos will be powered with PW geared turbofans, this would simplify maintenance between the former and the C-series.

  4. A350-800 is the best aircraft. New model and very spacious. Smoothest and quietist aircraft and of course its beautiful

  5. The coordination required between air traffic control and pilots is a dance in the sky. AV8 Prep private pilot license


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