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When Boeing ruled Philippine skies

Way before the Philippines became an Airbus country, Boeing ruled the skies. The most common among them was the Boeing 737, operated by Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines, Grand Air, PhilAir, and South East Asian Airlines. The ever beautiful Boeing 747 in Philippine Airlines colors was a common sight, and until its last day in service, everyone was simply mesmerized by its size and beauty.


Air Philippines Boeing 737-300. Getty Images

Philippine Airlines had been a long time customer and the only airline in the Philippines that operates Boeings, the 777-300ER. The Philippine's national flag carrier operates a fleet of 10 777-300ERs, also the biggest aircraft in the PAL fleet. It is also the airline's primary flagship which flies mostly transpacific flights. 


Philippine Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. Wikimedia


PAL's partnership with Boeing goes back to 1979 when the airline purchased the Boeing 747-200B which was flown to a lot of international destinations. It was also the aircraft equipped with the iconic "Skybeds", a first ever in Asia. They were located on the upper deck of PAL's 747. After two years, PAL took in two 727-100s.

Seven years later in 1989, Philippine Airlines replaced its then BAC-111s with the Boeing 737-300, round 17 of them joined the fleet. The airline also added 3 longer 737-400s to the fleet

PAL also operated the Boeing 747 until 2014. The last 747 it operated was the 747-400, wherein the airline had 5 of them in the fleet. Up to now, the crew still admires the 747 for its beauty and its sheer size.


PAL Boeing 747-200. Wikimedia
PAL Boeing 727. Wikimedia
PAL Boeing 747-400. Wikimedia
After the airline industry in the Philippines was deregulated in 1995, new airlines came about. This meant that Philippine Airlines can no longer monopolize the airline industry. One of the first to appear was GrandAir, owned by the Panlilio family. During that time, there were a lot of used Boeing aircraft in the market, perfect for startup airlines. On top of the 5 Airbus A300B4s, GrandAir operated 4 Boeing 737-200s which they used for domestic flights. GrandAir folded its wings in 1999, with the last flight utilizing a Boeing 737-200.

Grand Air Boeing 737-200. Wikimedia
Air Philippines also began operations in 1995 utilizing a Boeing 737-200ADV. Later on, the airline purchased four more 737-200s. In 1999, Air Philippines became a sister company of Philippine Airlines, and two Boeing 737-300s were transfered. Before rebranding to PAL Express for the first time in 2008, the airline operated a total of 8 737s. In 2014, Air Philippines returned to using jets with the Airbus A320 under the brand "AirPhil Express". All Boeings were retired.


Air Philippines Boeing 737-200ADV. Wikipedia
Cebu Pacific Boeing 757-200. Wikimedia

We are very much aware that Cebu Pacific is an Airbus all the way operator which started with McDonnell DC-9s but little to many, the airline operated Boeing too, the 757-200 which they used mostly for international operations. Cebu Pacific operated 757s from 2000 to 2007.

There is actually still one airline that operates a 737-200 today, and that is South East Asian Airlines, but used solely as a cargo aircraft, and not as a passenger carrier.

SEA Air Boeing 737-200C. Wikimedia
Today, Airbus had indeed taken over the Philippine skies, the A320 series being the most common, operated by six airlines. PAL and Cebu Pacific are the only operators of Airbus widebody aircraft.

Flying Boeing 737s in the Philippines are rare. Those you see usually belong to foreign carriers that still operate them. If you will go to the Manila general aviation area, Clark International Airport, and Subic International Airport, you will see a lot of parked Boeing 737s there collecting dust and dirt. A 737-200 have also been bought by someone which had been converted to a restaurant in Quezon Province.

Photo: Air Summit Gourmet
Despite being an Airbus country, will any airline still purchase a Boeing? Well, all eyes are now on Philippine Airlines and the Boeing 777-9X but then again, we have to wait for an official statement from the airline. How about 737s? That seems unlikely for now as most training facilities in the Philippines and pilots are Airbus rated. The European aircraft manufacturer indeed did a great thing with its cockpit commonality among all their aircraft.

Until 2035 or so, the Philippines will remain to be an Airbus country but it would be also interesting to see a new airline open up in the country using 737s or perhaps, the 787 Dreamliner.

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