PAL to expand, reconfigure fleet amid record profits

In a media conference on Tuesday, national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced that it is expanding and improving its fleet to better serve its passengers. This initiative comes as PAL records its highest net profit in history, totaling ₱21 billion in 2023.

Anna Isabel Bengzon, PAL’s Senior Vice President & Chief Finance Officer, said that the carrier has earmarked 80 percent of its $450 million capital expenditures (capex) for 2024 to reconfigure its 18 Airbus A321ceo (current engine option) aircraft as well as other aircraft expenses.

“It includes the refurbishment of the A321ceos, on the aircraft maintenance and the upgrades we’re doing on the aircraft, including the purchase of the new aircraft. There are delivery payments that’s already included with it,” Bengzon said in a report from the Philippine News Agency.

The Airbus A321ceo planes, first delivered in 2013, are currently configured with 12 seats in business class, 18 in premium economy class, and 169 in standard economy class.

Compared to the newer Airbus A321neo (new engine option) aircraft, the older Airbus A321 models were not equipped with in-flight entertainment (IFE) in all classes.

However, according to PAL, this will change as the A321ceo planes are slated for a cabin makeover beginning this year. The cabin upgrades include seat-back IFE and brand-new, redesigned seats.

The first reconfigured Airbus A321ceo plane is expected to enter service with the flag carrier in the first half of 2025.

Meanwhile, part of the PAL’s capex is acquiring fresh-from-the-factory Airbus planes: nine A350-1000 XWB and 13 more A321neo aircraft. These planes are scheduled for delivery intermittently between 2025 and 2029.

The 380-seater Airbus A350 aircraft are set to be deployed in PAL’s North American routes, while the additional Airbus A321neo planes are for Asian and Australian destinations.

PAL is also looking to exercise its options for three more Airbus A350 aircraft to support its international expansion, according to Capt. Stanley Ng, PAL’s President and Chief Operating Officer. If exercised, it will increase the number of orders for this type to 12.

PAL currently has two Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft in its fleet. Originally, six were ordered and delivered to the flag carrier. However, the airline had to return four of those to its lessors as it underwent bankruptcy protection in 2021.

The flag carrier is also expecting the arrival of its second ex-Garuda Indonesia Boeing 777-300ER, to be registered RP-C7784, within the next few months, in time for the launch of its non-stop air service between Manila and Seattle in October.

The first ex-Garuda plane, RP-C7783, arrived on April 1 to replace the outgoing RP-C7776.

PAL is expecting to end the year with 79 active aircraft.

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