Philippine Airlines is seeking to expand its widebody fleet to strengthen its long-haul operations. However, the flag carrier of the Philippines is facing difficulty in finding available Airbus A350 or Boeing 777 aircraft, the airline's president and chief operating officer, Stanley Ng, revealed in an interview with the local newspaper Inquirer.
Philippine Airlines is optimistic about a profitable 2023 as demand for air travel continues to soar, with strong local markets and China reopened. This comes after the airline posted successful quarterly results for the first time in several years last year.
With an expectation for a profit-churning year, Philippine Airlines is eager for growth and expansion. However, according to Ng, the airline is facing growth constraints due to supply-chain issues and competition with global carriers for aircraft and spare parts.
Having just emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings, the airline's full recovery to pre-COVID capacity depends on the availability of widebody aircraft. Without access to more widebody jets, the airline's ability to launch new long-haul routes will be limited. Ng said:
"If we can get more planes, we can expand immediately, but we can't. There's a plan to finalize [new orders], but it will take two years to deliver the aircraft."
As it stands, the flag carrier of the Philippines has 21 widebody aircraft in its fleet, including 10 Airbus A330s, nine Boeing 777-300ERs, and two Airbus A350-900 jets, according to ch-aviation.com data.
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It is worth noting that amid the pandemic, the airline was forced to file for Chapter 11 and subsequently had to reduce its capacity, which included grounding six of its Airbus A350-900 aircraft due to financial constraints. According to Ng, it has been challenging to retrieve grounded planes, and the earliest opportunity for the airline to obtain new aircraft will be in 2025.
The flag carrier of the Philippines has been discussing plans to fortify its fleet for some time. In March 2023, the airline disclosed its ambition to reactivate all of its aircraft by the end of the year. Presently, ch-aviation.com reports that the airline has three Airbus A321s and one Airbus A320 aircraft in storage.
Moreover, the airline was contemplating a move from its current flagship Airbus A350-900s to the larger A350-1000s, Stanley Ng said during the airline's 82nd-anniversary event. However, in a recent interview with Inquirer, Ng said plans to acquire ten more planes over the next five years but did not elaborate on the exact type of aircraft. Upon the retirement of some of its older jets, the addition of new aircraft will raise its fleet size to approximately 80 planes.
In addition, the airline is open to the possibility of welcoming new investors. Now that times are better in terms of financial situation, Ng also mentioned that there had been inquiries from potential investors in Hong Kong and China, as well as the Philippines.
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