Corporate News

By Imee Charlee C. Delavin,
Senior Reporter

PAL to spend $80M to upgrade A330 aircraft

Posted on June 15, 2017

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES (PAL) is spending $80 million this year to reconfigure its A330 aircraft which will be used to expand its services in “mid-market” destinations in the region.

Philippine Airlines is the first Asian carrier to offer the Pneumatic Comfort System for business class seats. -- IMEE CHARLEE C. DELAVIN
PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said they will be converting the cabin layout of eight mono-class 414-seater A330-300s into a 309-seater tri-class model with business, premium economy and economy class sections, as part of efforts to become a four-star airline this year.

“[We spent] approximately $10 million per aircraft... There’s eight [to be reconfigured] so $80 million... By December, tapos na lahat iyan,” Mr. Bautista told reporters at the unveiling of its first remodeled aircraft late on Tuesday.

The reconfigured A330 will be utilized for the Manila-Honolulu-Manila route starting this month. Other A330 tri-class planes will be unveiled in July for Melbourne, in August for Sydney, in September for Singapore, in October for Haneda, in November for Narita, and in December for Osaka.

“For us to be able to compete, we have to shape up. We have to be at par with competition. This is the reason why we are reconfiguring our planes... This is an important ingredient for us to get the four-star [rating] this year,” the PAL chief said.

The A330 aircraft were previously used in some of the airline’s Middle East flights, which only had economy class with 414 seats. The flag carrier is suspending its Manila-Abu Dhabi flights starting July 8 as it undertakes “route assessment initiatives,” although it will continue to fly to Dubai, Doha, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait and Dammam.

“We will fly this to other regions. We will not fly this to the Middle East which is all economy since it caters to the OFW [market]... This is for other regions [like] Australia -- Australians are willing to spend so okay lang ito ilipad namin doon. Competition namin kasi for people who go to Australia, except for Cebu Pacific that offers all economy, all the others are offering very good business class seats,” Mr. Bautista said.

“Ultimately the goal is to [improve] revenue and service,” he added, noting that PAL is moving to address areas for improvement pointed out by aviation consultancy firm Skytrax during its last audit in April. The next airline rating audit will happen in the fourth quarter. PAL currently has a three-star ranking based on the Skytrax World Airline Rating, the leading international airline rating system that classifies carriers by the quality of front line product and staff service standards. It targets to join the ranks of five-star carriers by 2020.

According to Skytrax’s Web site, the certified 4-star rating “recognizes those airlines that provide a good product standard across different travel categories, combined with delivering good standards of staff service for both the cabin service and their home-base airport environments.

Mr. Bautista said securing the four-star rating by the end of the year will also “enhance” the viability of PAL to its possible investor.

For the reconfigured aircraft, PAL selected the Thompson Vantage XL brand for its 18 business class seats with a legroom of 44 inches, width of 23-24 inches and a full-flat recline with a bed length of 78 inches.

The Zodiac 5810 brand was selected for the 24 premium economy class seats with a legroom of 38 inches, width of 19 inches and a recline of 8 inches, while the Economy Zodiac brand was chosen for the 267 economy seats with a legroom of 32 inches, width of 17 inches and recline of 6 inches. PAL also became the first Asian carrier to offer the Pneumatic Comfort System (PCS) for business class seats. With the PCS, passengers can adjust seat firmness and has a massage function.

Business class and premium economy seats also have legrest, calfrest, footrest and coat hook. Passengers on both cabins can charge their devices by using the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port or in-seat power supply installed on their seats. For the economy class cabin, standard seats are equipped with USB ports while facility seats have in-seat power supply. The Lucio C. Tan-led flag carrier earlier said it is keen on concluding talks with a possible foreign partner by year end, as the airline is open to taking in “more than one investor.” A strategic investor is expected to help PAL better manage its fleet and reach its earlier announced goal of achieving five-star full service carrier status by 2020.

PAL has already moved to consolidate its airline business which was expected to help increase its appeal to potential investors.

For 2017, PAL is projecting passenger volumes to hit 15 million, up 11% from the 13.4 million passengers flown last year. In the first three months, traffic already grew 15% to 5.12 million from 4.4 million.

PAL shares slipped 4.72% or 25 centavos to P5.05 apiece on Wednesday.