By: AirTravellerPH Staff
Philippine Airlines (PAL) is indeed one of the most watched airlines now in Asia. After receiving 9 accolades just this year, PAL is set to improve its position in the global airline list after making it to the world's top 30 best airline list and world's most improved. One of PAL's greatest asset is its fleet, now operating a full range of newer generation aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing, dominated by the former.
We now look into the future of PAL's fleet from now until 2025.
It is said that in 15 years, Asia-Pacific airlines will hold 32% of the total passenger market share. Philippines is also preparing for the increase in passenger movement by improving airports and facilities including route network. On the other hand, the airlines are slowly adding more capacity while switching to more fuel efficient high capacity aircraft, presently most coming from aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
PAL, being the Philippines's national flag carrier, has been on the works to improve its product offering and services, including its aircraft. Presently, PAL has 72 aircraft in its fleet, with an average fleet age of 5.2 years, The list includes 10 Boeing 777-300ER, 6 Airbus A350-900, 15 Airbus A330-300, 7 Airbus A321NEOs, 24 Airbus A321CE0 (6 assigned to PAL Express), and a few Airbus A320s.
PAL so far seems okay with their narrowbody aircraft requirement as they still have 14 more Airbus A321NEOs up for delivery. By the look of it all, the airline will be replacing all their A320-200s with A321NEOs.
This would leave PAL with 21 A321NEO aircraft as their main narrowbody aircraft, consisting of 6 A321N-LRs and 15 A321N-SRs. We see the airline handing over those A321CEOs to Air Philippines (PAL Express), and maybe some will be returned back to their lessors.
This now leaves us to look at their widebody aircraft which is very important in the airline's operations since PAL's bread and butter is its North America routes.
PAL presently has ten Boeing 777-300ERs, where the first one (RP-C7777) is 10 years old. Both RP-C7777 and C7776 are leased from GECAS, they are the oldest in the 777 fleet. Since the aircraft are 10 years and extending their lease would mean that they would stay longer with PAL for more than 5 years or so, the aircraft may turn out to be too old and expensive to operate, hence, the need to replace.
Lets go straight to PAL's future wide body fleet first. Our prediction by 2025, the airline will have a mix of Boeing 777-9X (if the project will not be further delayed and if PAL puts an order soon), Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A350-1000, Airbus A350-900, and Airbus A330-300. It is hard to predict their numbers so let us leave it there first.
So how did we come up with this? As previously mentioned, PAL may no longer renew the lease of 2 Boeing 777-300ERs which will be more than 10 years old by the time the lease expires. On the horizon are 6 Airbus A350 options which the airline may exercise anytime. At the same time, Boeing has been in talks with the airline, pitching in the much awaited Boeing 777X! This we are excited for.
If PAL would order the Boeing 777-9X now as replacements for RP-C7777 and RP-C7776, they will not be able to get them before 2023, hence, the need for them to turn their eyes to the Airbus options. They may either get 6 more A350-900s, or upgrade to the A350-1000s, or get a combination of both. If they would put an order for this today, there is a huge chance that they will be able to receive the aircraft by 2022, just in time for the lease expiry of the first two 777-300ER.
As airports are also getting more congested due to the growth of air travel, PAL's only way of increasing capacity is to increase the size of the aircraft which can accomodate more passengers and cargo, instead of requesting for more slots which are limited lately. The Boeing 777-9X will be the answer to PAL's capacity requirement, as this aircraft can fit 414 passengers in a bi-class layout, or should we say, tri-class which consists of business class, premium economy, and economy. Yes, premium economy has been gaining popularity in Asia.
eWe also foresee PAL putting an order for the A350-1000 soon as replacements for the two oldest Boeing 777-300ERs in the fleet by exercising their option. The A35K will be able to handle almost the same capacity of passengers unless PAL decides on a tri-class configuration for this similar to that of the present A350-900s, except, with a higher capacity. The present Boeing 777s only have a bi-class configuration.
The A35K will indeed prefectly complement the Boeing 777s for PAL.
PAL will most likely retain its A330-300 fleet for Middle East, Australian, and regional route. If these would be replaced, we see them going for the A330-900NEO but that would already be beyond 2025 since the present ones are fairly new.
What is then the future of PAL fleet? We foresee them to be a mix the following by 2025:
Anyhow, if Air Philippines will set off on a distinct brand, we do foresee them operating Airbus A330-300s too. Presently, Air Philippines still have its entitlements to operate flights to the Middle East. If they intend to keep them, then they will need the A330.
Philippine Airlines have seven 368-seater "bare" Airbus A330s with a similar configuration to that of AirAsia X's A330-300s, and we see this aircraft perfect for a long-haul low cost model. They would also be fit for the airline as this gives them the capability to increase capacity without asking for more slots especially in congested airports.
So if it is true that PAL and Air Philippines will go for a dual-branding strategy, then our prediction for Air Philippines would be:
Last but not least, PAL will make use of a common interior theme across its fleet, all equipped with seat-back IFEs, and PAL eSuite. You do see them now in their present fleet and is set to go all throughout in the future.
Again, all these are just our predictions and forecast of what may be the future of PAL's fleet, and not the actual one. Things may change along the way, but basing all on the present situation, trends, and movements, it is more likely PAL would be going for a fleet we did mention above. Lets just always be updated with news regarding this which we will definitely also share here once we do get news on any actual orders.