Philippine Airlines to expand fleet with A350-1000s

Just about a year after the fourth Airbus A350-900 left the Philippine Airlines (PAL) fleet as part of the flag carrier's restructuring and emergence from bankruptcy leaving it with two of them, its Chief Executive Stanley Ng has announced an expansion of the fleet.

Philippine Airlines Airbus A350
Image source: Wikimedia

According to a press release by PAL, it has signed a memorandum of agreement with Airbus to order nine (9) Airbus A350-1000s with an option to order three (3) more, citing the combination of "greater range capability" with "higher capacity" and "comfort".  The aircraft is expected to arrive between late-2025 and 2027.

Ng further adds "It’s the perfect aircraft to enable PAL to meet its expansion plans in a sustainable way, while offering passengers the highest levels of onboard comfort. We are committed to offering our passengers the best possible travel experience, and these state-of-the-art aircraft will enable us to do just that as we carry out our mission to connect the world, and grow trade and tourism."

Christian Scherer of Airbus says  “Flying passengers farther and in greater comfort, the A350 brings a step-change in fuel efficiency and an immediate significant contribution to reduced emissions. These are the attributes that have made the A350 the choice of leading airlines worldwide. We look forward to working closely with our long-standing customer Philippine Airlines as it moves forward with its long haul fleet modernization programme.”

PAL says that the aircraft is expected to be deployed on its North American route, which includes non-stop services to Toronto and New York.  At the moment that region is served by a combination of A350-900s and Boeing 777-300ERs.

Although PAL has claimed the A350-1000s are for expansion, it could also be used to replace ageing aircraft in its fleet such as two older 777-300ERs, which have been with PAL since 2009.  Those aircraft have been subject to some bad reviews by passengers because of faulty in-seat IFE, for instance.  

Just like PAL's A350-900s, the A350-1000s will feature three service classes: business, premium economy, and (regular) economy.  This is a departure from previous suggestions that say a cabin reconfiguration is imminent with premium economy getting removed in favour of (regular) economy.

The Airbus A350-1000 is said to be one of the longest-range aircrafts in the world.  It is capable of travelling up to 8,700 nautical miles.  It is also the choice of aircraft for Qantas, as it plans to mount non-stop flights between London and Sydney.  Other carriers that operate this A350-1000 variant include Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Virgin Atlantic.  

This new Airbus A350 order reinforces the long-standing relationship between the flag carrier and the 53-year old European aircraft manufacturer.  PAL's first Airbus aircraft arrived in 1979 with the Airbus A300B4.  Since then it has introduced various aircraft from the A320 and A330/340 families.  In addition to the A350, PAL currently operates 17 A321ceos, 8 A321neos, 10 A330s. 

Ng has made no secret of a desire for PAL to expand its fleet and destinations.  This is as PAL was forced to reduce capacity suspend flights due to financial lossess and the COVID-19 pandemic.  PAL filed for bankruptcy in 2021.  However, there may be questions about the timing of this decision to order new aircraft not too long after removing newer aircraft to cut costs.  It is too soon to tell if this is a sound financial decision as it was based only on one year of profitability.  PAL posted a 2022 operating profit of over $297 million (approximately €271 million, £235 million), its first since 2019.   


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