PAL eyes A350 acquisition

Aviation Updates Philippines  With the arrival of the Airbus A350-941 XWB in Manila today, Airbus is set to demonstrate the capabilities of the aircraft to Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Hopefully, after the sales pitch, we will be able to hear positive news from both airlines soon.

Dubbed as a next-generation aircraft, the Airbus A350 can accommodate 315 passengers in a two-class configuration and can fly up to 7,750 miles. The aircraft entered commercial service in January 2015 with launch customer Qatar Airways.

Philippine Airlines is carefully studying the capabilities of the next-generation aircraft. The flag carrier will possibly sign orders for the A350 to practically replace its aging Iberia-leased Airbus A340-300 fleet.

PAL's Airbus A340 fleet is not fuel-efficient at all which makes it costly to operate. Aside from that, the quad-jet is already showing significant signs of aging across the cabin, coupled with the lack of in-flight services.

"There will be a need for us to get more long-haul aircraft for expansion to North America, Europe," PAL President and Chief Operating Officer, Jaime Bautista told journalists. "Of course, we will study it very carefully," Bautista said when asked about the airline's position on the A350 evaluation.

The Airbus A350 competes directly with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner as airlines worldwide lean to both fuel-efficient and economically-viable aircraft. The A350, per Airbus, boasts 25% less fuel burn, emissions, and lower maintenance costs.

DEPARTURE. An Airbus A350-941 XWB aircraft departs for a demonstration flight. Photo from Airbus.

The aircraft has more space for its passengers in all classes. Airlines can install flatbeds in its business and first-class section due to its wide fuselage size compared to its competitors. It has large windows and overhead compartments.

Sales pitch for Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific

Airbus will perform several demonstration flights for Philippine Airlines on May 21 and Cebu Pacific on May 22. The manufacturer will be meeting with officials from PAL and Cebu Pacific on these scheduled dates. 

The Airbus A350 is scheduled to leave Manila on May 24, 2015. At posting time, no orders were confirmed yet.

PASSENGERS ALL-IN. Passengers board for the demonstration flight around the Philippine airspace. Photo from Airbus.

Cebu Pacific is less interested in the A350

Leading Philippine budget carrier, Cebu Pacific Air, seems to be less interested in the A350 program. Well, as of the moment, the airline does not need any long-haul aircraft as it sports a more conservative business model compared to other low-cost carriers.

The budget airline currently operates six 436-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft which are capable of flying up to 5,000 miles. 

"I think the fleet strategy always follows the network strategy," Cebu Pacific Air Chief Executive Officer, Lance Gokongwei said. "The A350 is very ideal for long haul. We don't have any long-haul routes at this point that require this range."