PAL, Airphil to get new aircraft in 2012 as re-fleeting continues means BUSINESS

MANILA, Philippines - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its sister firm Airphil Express will take delivery of new aircraft in 2012 as part of their re-fleeting and expansion programs.

The flag carrier is taking delivery of six aircraft next year--four A320s and two Boeing 777s, according to PAL president Jaime Bautista.

“The four Airbus aircraft will arrive in March, April, November and December while the Boeing 777 is scheduled in June and November,” Bautista added.

PAL has a fleet of 36 now: five Boeing 747-400s, two B777s, 17 units of Airbus A320—319s, four A320-200s and eight A330-300s.

PAL has sought to stay competitive through a re-fleeting program whereby old aircraft will be replaced with newer-technology and more fuel-efficient aircraft over the next few years as they reach the end of their economic lives.

PAL is 95-percent owned by tobacco and beer magnate Lucio Tan. On the other hand, Airphil is 99-percent owned by the Lucio Tan group and is also PAL’s budget carrier.

PAL had stressed earlier the “need to refleet,” noting that among local carriers, PAL has the widest network, which he described as “a competitive advantage that we need to leverage and reinforce.”

This, Tan stressed, “will provide us the avenue for bringing down unit costs and improve our ability to price more competitively. This will allow us to expand our presence in our current markets through increased frequencies and introduce new destinations especially in the booming Asian region.”

Among those to be replaced are the Boeing 747s and Airbus A320s. The re-fleeting will take a minimum of five years. The amount required for the re-fleeting program was not disclosed.

Airphil Express is also scheduled to take delivery of four new aircraft in the first quarter of 2012.

Two Airbus A320s will arrive in January, one in February and another one in March, said PAL senior assistant vice president and executive assistant to the PAL president Cesar Chiong.

With the new planes, new routes to explore, and a new hub in Clark, Airphil has set its sights on becoming a strong second player in the domestic travel sector.

It wants to increasingly corner a bigger slice of the budget airline pie by offering more  compelling value propositions to travellers, such as the free 15-kilo check-in luggage allowance plus seven-kilo hand-carry baggage that used to be standard among budget carriers.

The airline offers students a 20-percent discount, and recently launched a customer loyalty program. With the latter, loyal Airphil Express travelers can receive a free ticket after logging in 10 trips under the program.

Chiong said Airphil is earmarking about $250 million in capital expenditures in 2012, which includes partial payment for the new aircraft due to arrive.