Philippine Airlines Studying Replacement of Regional Aircraft

Following the recent order for A350-900 long haul aircraft, Philippine Airlines can now shift its attention to the final phase of its re-fleeting plan, which is to address the needs of its regional aircraft fleet. PAL already addressed the needs of its medium-haul and narrow-body fleet with previous orders for thirty A321neo aircraft and fifteen Airbus A330 aircraft.  

philippine airlines bombardier q400
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Philippine Airlines currently has a fleet of nine Bombardier Dash 8 turbo-prop aircraft, which are operated by the carrier's full service regional subsidiary, PAL Express. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, the average age of the Dash 8 aircraft in the PAL Express fleet is approximately twelve years old. This positions the Dash 8 as the second oldest type of aircraft in the Philippine Airlines fleet after the Airbus A340.

PAL will need to carefully evaluate its long-term plans for regional services in the Philippines as its main competitor, Cebu Pacific boosts its presence on domestic routes. Last June, Cebu Pacific placed an order ahead of Philippine Airlines for sixteen ATR 72-600 turbo-prop aircraft at the Paris Air Show. The budget carrier also received options to acquire up to an additional ten aircraft. 

The Cebu Pacific order doubles the carrier's turbo-prop fleet. In addition to replacing Cebu Pacific's fleet of eight ATR 72-500 aircraft, which are due for retirement, the new aircraft will be used to expand inter-island services throughout the Philippines. Cebu Pacific intends to use the aircraft not only at the country's main airports, but also at smaller regional airports to help develop regional tourism and transportation. 

Philippine Airlines is still studying the various regional aircraft available including turbo-props and regional jets. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, PAL is evaluating turbo-prop aircraft from Bombardier and ATR, as well as regional jets produced by Embraer and Bombardier. PAL met with each of the aircraft manufacturers at the recent Singapore Airshow. It is believed that the national flag carrier will select the replacement aircraft by the end of this year. 

The acquisition of new turbo-props is almost a certainty as not all domestic airports in the Philippines are able to accommodate jet aircraft due to the length of their runways. However, PAL may consider introducing regional jets into the fleet to complement the turbo-prop service on key domestic routes. In addition, they could be used to launch new point-to-point domestic routes from secondary cities or new regional international routes.

Bombardier's new C-Series jet might be a suitable option if Philippine Airlines wants to introduce regional jets into the fleet. Bombardier markets the aircraft as the world's most advanced single-aisle jet. The aircraft comes in two variants. The CS100 aircraft can carry up to 133 passengers, while the CS300 can carry up to 160 passengers with larger windows than most single-aisle aircraft. 

bombardier cs300 interior
Image Source: Bombardier
The family of aircraft offers 15% operating cost advantage over in-production aircraft, and a 12% operating cost advantage over re-engined aircraft. This provides the C-Series with the lowest break-even load factor in its class. In addition, both C-Series variants offer a range of over 3,000 nautical miles and the CS100 is able to take-off with as little as 4,000 feet of runway.

Swiss Air is the launch customer for the Bombardier CS100 and will be placing the aircraft into service in the third quarter of this year. Air Canada recently signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 75 C-Series aircraft. But according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, the aircraft is of little interest in Southeast Asia. "For that size category of aircraft, there is generally relatively limited interest in Southeast Asia," said Brendan Sobie, CAPA Analyst.

Image Source: Bombardier
The low-cost carrier market in Southeast Asia is dominated by Boeing and Airbus aircraft. As the low-cost model is based on fleet uniformity, there is little interest in the region at the present time. Moreover, the rapid growth of air travel and demand for lower fares is driving the demand for larger aircraft that can offer a lower cost per seat mile. Both Boeing and Airbus have introduced newer, more fuel-efficient versions of their A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft.

According to Lance Gokongwei, CEO of Cebu Pacific, uniformity with the carrier's fleet of A320 aircraft is essential to the airline's low-cost business model. "I can only speak for ourselves, but as a low-cost carrier, we value commonality," said Gokongwei. "We're not about to change. Our forthcoming order is for 30 A320neos. We're pretty much set until 2021."

Given that Philippine Airlines is no longer pursuing a budget carrier model and intends to position itself as a five-star carrier, there may be room for regional jets in the fleet. However, CAPA noted in its most recent report that Philippine Airlines may choose to remain purely with a turbo-prop fleet as the extremely price-sensitive Philippine market may not provide adequate yields to support cost-effective operation of smaller regional jets, particularly with limited demand for premium service. 


  1. I thought cebu was ordering A321 neos not A320's.

    1. Yes Cebu Pacific ordered A321neo but it will be delivered on 2017

    2. They have ordered bouth types from what I gather from the news.

      They have A320ceo(Current engine options), and A320neo(New Engine Options)on order the ceo's are to replace some of their older A320's or to supplement them.

      The new ones are basically to expand their network with newer more fuel efficient aircraft.

  2. My entertainment facility ang pal from doha manila doha flight?

  3. Katulad ng qatar airlines,Emirates, Oman air at etihad. Ung ksma n sa bayad ung mga facility.

  4. PAL might want to consider little jets like the one Skyjet airlines has been using going to Batanes and Caticlan

  5. For me PAL should consider ordering the smaller jets like the CS100 for regional routes. Especially here in Region 8, we have Ormoc and Tacloban airports which I think can accommodate the C-Series and the Embraer E jets.

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