By: AirTravellerPH Staff
Airbus has enjoyed a 41-year relationship with the Philippines and this is seen to even get stronger as the years come. Not counting possible additions to the Philippines AirAsia fleet, the Philippines is set to receive more than 60 Airbus aircraft from now until 2024 ranging from A320/1 NEOs and A330-900NEOs between both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Royal Air has currently ditched their Avro RJ100s for A319s.
The Philippines can indeed be considered an Airbus country as even the Philippine Air Force now operates Airbus C295 transporter aircraft. Some pilot training centers also in the country are equipped with Airbus A320 simulators. Most new pilots also in the Philippines right away seek to be rated for Airbus since this would give them a bigger chance to find commercial airline pilot jobs.
This relationship though started 41 years ago in 1978 when Philippine Airlines placed in orders for Airbus's only aircraft, the A300B4.
The A300B4 which PAL dubbed as the "Love Bus", was the very first twin-engine widebody aircraft in the world, a time when Boeing 747s, 707s, and DC-10s were the main widebodies then. The very first A300B4 which had a "Love Bus" livery arrived in the Philippines in 1979.
In 1997, PAL further strengthened its partnership with Airbus with an order of A320s, A330s, and A340s. During that time, PAL was the only airline that had the complete line-up of Airbus aircraft in its fleet from the A300B4, A320-200, A330-300, A340-200, and A340-300.
Today, Philippine Airlines operates 71 Airbus jets in its fleet consisting of A320s, A321-200CEOs, A321NEOs, A330-300s, and A350-900s. To even commemorate their long standing partnership, PAL had 2 of its A350s carry the original "Love Bus" insignia, truly a mix of the present and notalgia.
Cebu Pacific became the third airline in the Philippines to operate Airbus aircraft whent they took delivery of 10 A319s and 2 A320s in around 2004 to replace its fleet of McDonnell DC-9s and Boeing 757s. This allowed the airline to operate as a full low-cost carrier while flying more passengers at lower fares! They also became the first low-cost airline in the Philippines.
In 2011, Cebu Pacific further strengthened its order of Airbus aircraft with 32 A321NEO and 5 A320NEO. In 2018, Cebu Pacific's fleet consisted of 41 A320 family aircraft particularly 34 A320s and 7 A321CEOs. In 2013, Cebu Pacific took delivery of its first of six A330-300, the budget airline's first widebody aircraft. Configured with 436 all-economy seats, Cebu Pacific's A330 was known to be the most dense seating in the world for the type of aircraft.
Just last April during the Paris Air Show 2019, Cebu Pacific placed in an order for another 31 Airbus aircraft consisting of 16 A330-900NEO, 10 Airbus A321XLR, and 5 more A320NEO.
The budget airline's goal is to operate an all-Airbus NEO (New Engine Option) fleet by 2025.
Air Philippines also took the leap from Boeing to Airbus when it rebranded as AirPhil Express. The airline acquired two former PAL A320s. and later on expanded its fleet of A320s to compete with Cebu Pacific as the country's third low-cost airline.
Now known as PAL Express, the former AirPhil Express, or should we say, Air Philippines, operates also an all-Airbus jet fleet consisting of 8 A320s and 6 A321CEOs.
When Asian Spirit was renamed "Zest Air" in 2008, the airline went into operating Airbus A320 aircraft to compete with Cebu Pacific. They eventually became the Philippines's second low-cost airline operating Airbus aircraft, a mix of A320s and China made Xian MA-60 turbo props. When Zest Air transitioned to AirAsia Zest in 2013, the airline retired all its MA-60s but kept its A320 aircraft.
Today, Philippines AirAsia, formerly AirAsia Zest, operates 25 A320 aircraft and is looking to increase this to 50 aircraft.
More airlines in the Philippines later on spouted and they do opertate Airbus aircraft. The Cebu and Kalibo-based Pan Pacific Air presently operates 5 Airbus A320 aircraft with hubs at Cebu and Clark. Their flights are all international destinations to South Korea.
Royal Air, otherwise known as Royal Air Charter, used to operate Avro RJ100s before moving to Airbus A319 aircraft. They are bound to receive their third A320 family aircraft.
Airbus looks to further increase its presence and foothold in the Philippines as more aircraft are expected to be delivered. This includes training systems for the A320 and A330, aircraft maintenance, and parts manufacturing.
It is safe to say then that the Philippines will remain to be an Airbus country for the next 15 years or so, and we expect more Airbus presence in the future.