AMBITIOUS EXPANSION PLAN
PAL to double B777 fleet, fly nonstop to Paris, Toronto, New YorkBy Daxim L. Lucas, Doris C. Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine Airlines said that it would acquire three more Boeing 777-300ERs in addition to the three it has on its fleet in a bid to save money by shifting away from its current flagship, the gas-guzzling Boeing 747-400.
The announcement made by PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang Monday evening effectively raised the flag carrier’s order for the more fuel-efficient aircraft from four to six by converting previous options for two more planes into firm orders.
PAL’s first two B777 aircraft were leased from GE Capital Aviation Services (Gecas), with its most recent delivery being company-owned. The three additional B777s—scheduled for delivery in November 2012, April 2013 and November 2013—will all be company-owned.
Along with what sources said was a soon-to-be unveiled order for more Airbus planes, the new acquisitions would be part of the airline’s operations overhaul which, Ang said, would save it as much as $300 million in operating costs a year.
The PAL chief said the airline would also implement by October a scheme wherein its biggest aircraft would be used mainly for long-range flights, while shorter routes would be serviced by smaller aircraft.
At present, even short flights like the one-hour Manila-Cebu route are, on occasion, serviced by PAL’s largest aircraft, the Boeing 747-400, with only a few seats occupied on any given flight.
Ang added that apart from the inefficiency of using half-full, wide-bodied aircraft to service short routes, the high frequency of take-offs and landings also added to the “fatigue” experienced by a particular airplane, contributing to faster depreciation and higher maintenance costs.
Ang also disclosed PAL’s plan to soon introduce nonstop flights to Toronto, Paris and New York City.
He said that Toronto could be added in three months while flights to Paris could be started by February next year.
He said the strategy for PAL was simple: modernization of its fleet, expansion of its network and improvements in passenger service. “PAL must become known for its warm, sincere and hospitable service. Each of us must be passionate about exceeding the expectations of our passengers in creative and helpful ways,” Ang said.
He described PAL as operating in a very competitive environment—but one with a wealth of opportunity. “The Asia-Pacific is the fastest-growing market for air travel and we need to improve our competitiveness as an airline,” he said.
“Our number one priority is to turnaround PAL by tapping into the strengths of San Miguel Corp. and the Lucio Tan Group of Companies. As PAL president, I am committed to transforming our airline’s business operations,” he said.
Also unveiled Monday night were: New inflight dishes prepared by five top-rated guest chefs; new book-and-buy ticketing kiosks to be installed at selected Petron gas stations; and Apple inflight iPads for entertainment on board trans-Pacific flights.
The first three Boeing 777-300ERs were delivered in November 2009, January 2012 and June 2012. The 370-seater B777s currently fly to Vancouver, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and Japan (via Cebu).
At present, the airline—51 percent owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and 49 percent by San Miguel—flies to 30 international and 20 local destinations.
Combined with its budget carrier subsidiary, Air Philippines, it has a total of 56 aircraft consisting of five Boeing 747-400s, three Airbus A340-300s, three Boeing 777-300ERs, eight Airbus 330-300s, 25 Airbus A320s, four Airbus A319s, five Bombardier Q400s and three Bombardier Q300s.
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