By: AirTravellerPH Staff
The Airbus A321NEO is now becoming a favorite aircraft of major airlines in the Philippines and it is not far from today that A321NEOs will be a common sight in Philippine Airports and in the skies. Just recently, Philippines AirAsia shared that they will be upgrading their present fleet to the A321NEOs but this may take some time as its most likely AirAsia Malaysia will be the recipient of the first few ones. The airline recently took its first A321NEO.
Philippine Airlines is also replacing its entire A320 fleet with A321NEOs, a total of 21 of them by 2025. Cebu Pacific will be the Philippines's largest operator with 28 more for delivery and now operating 4. They also have to confirm and finalize an order for 10 A321NEO-XLR. While Cebu Pacific will also be operating 10 A320NEOs by 2025, most of the aircraft will be A321NEOs.
So why has the A321NEO become popular among Philippine carriers and why is it perfect for the market?
First is the additional capacity versus the A320. With all the congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and other airports around brought by higher demand for air travel, airport slots have become more limited and harder to obtain. The A321NEO allows more capacity without having to request for more slots. In a single class configuration, an A320 usually takes 180 passengers but the A321NEO can take 240 passengers in a single class layout, as proven by Cebu Pacific. Philippine Airlines's A321NEO used for regional flights are configured with about 195 passengers in a bi-class layout. Switching from 2 A320 to 2 A321NEO on a certain flight will mean around 120 more seats, from 180 seats to 240 per aircraft for a single class configuration. All these though would depend on how the airline will configure their cabin but so far, more low cost airlines are making the most of the cabin space on the A321NEO.
Second, it can be used for both domestic and regional operations. Philippine airports are currently being improved and rehabilitated to take in larger A321s from the A320s . Major international airports in the Philippines like Bohol Panglao International Airport and other secondary gateways accommodate A321s. This will allow airline to increase capacity without having to request for additional slots.
Third is range. Presently, Philippine Airlines utilizes A321NEOs to fly from Manila to Sydney and Melbourne. The A321NEO-LR became a Boeing 757 replacement, a longer range narrowbody aircraft. This will allow Philippine low-cost airline to serve farther destinations without having to use widebody aircraft. For example, Cebu Pacific can launch direct flights from Cebu to Australia or Cebu to India using A321XLRs. It gives LCCs the capability to directly connect to and from secondary hubs to farther destinations where widebody aircraft may be too big for such market.
Fourth is efficiency. The A321neo are equipped with PW1100G-JM and for the case of AirAsia, CFM-LEAP-1A engines which are said to be 20% more fuel efficient than the previous model. NEO means New Engine Option and CEO means Current Engine Option. The current engines are the CFM56-5B and IAE V2500. This allows also a higher take-off weight, an MTOW of 97T for the A321NEO. Pilot training and upgrading is even made more cost efficient for airlines due to cockpit commonality among the Airbus line of aircraft.
In the next few years, expect the Airbus A321NEO to be a common sight in the Philippines. As for PAL Express or Air Philippines, we see them on the receiving end of the current 24 A321CEOs of Philippine Airlines but as their A320 fleet age too, we do see them making a few purchases of A320NEO jets in the future.