PAL comes closer to 5-star goal

By Floro L. Mercene

Philippine Airlines’  (PAL) aim to be a 5-star airline in 2020 seems to be getting nearer with the arrival last week of the hot-from-the factory in Toulouse, France, the Airbus A350-900XWB (extra-wide body).

Among the requirements to be the equivalent of aviation’s Micheline-guide is to have a fleet of at least 100 aircraft.

As of today the legacy carrier has about 85 airplane in its fleet, which is shy of about 15 planes requirement.

Last week, the first of 6 A350-900XWB landed at the premier gateway to much fanfare, signaling the cascade of new acquisitions this year.

Jimmy J. Bautista, the intrepid chief executive officer, said the fleet modernization would cost $2 billion once the 15 aircraft complete PAL’s fleet.

Aside from the six A350, there would be scores of new airplanes scheduled to fly in this year, consisting of six A350, six A321neo (new engine option, and five Bombardier Q400 next generation airplanes.

Bautista said there’s option to buy six more of the advanced A350-1000, which is seven meters longer than its predecessor and as fuel efficient. He said the 15 aircraft will cost around $2 billion, including spare parts.

The 4-star airline is upbeat about its expansion plans, knowing that a projection by the airplane manufacturer Airbus and Boeing has predicted that Asia Pacific will be the leading region in terms of the demand for airplanes.

Airbus’ new Global Services Forecast predicts a US$4.6-trillion worldwide market for commercial aircraft services from 2018 to 2037. The new analysis is based on the aircraft, the airline operation, and the passenger experience.

Fleets are expected to more than double to 48,000 aircraft over this period, such that Airbus estimates a need for 540,000 new pilots in the next 20 years. This trend will require  “smarter” ways of training using new digital technologies.

Already, the United States is worried about the lack of qualified pilots after their military, the number one source of veteran aviators for commercial planes, has started acquiring more drones.

According to Boeing, Asia will demand 40 percent of passenger jet deliveries in the next 20 years, more than double the number as compared to other regions.