PHILIPPINES Airlines (PAL) has started a new phase of its fleet modernization program with the receipt of a brand-new jet which it will use for regional flights.

The flag carrier said in a statement yesterday the A321neo SR is the first to be delivered out of its order for 15 new planes, the rest of which will be delivered “over the next few years.”

“Our newest A321neo (SR) will become the single-aisle mainstay for regional routes, helping PAL in our mission to boost tourism from the high-producing tourist countries in the region such as China, Japan, Korea and our ASEAN neighbors,” PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert F. Santa Maria said in the statement.

The new 195-seater plane was added to PAL’s fleet in July and is designed to travel short-haul flights such as those going to East Asian destinations and Guam. It is customized to have a more spacious cabin and legroom than the A321 Classics and A321neos.

“Our passengers will appreciate the more comfortable layout of the aircraft. The A321neo’s new engines, ‘sharklet’ wingtips and other innovations also make the airplane quieter, more efficient and kinder to the environment, which is good news for the planet,” Mr. Santa Maria added.

On Jan. 1, PAL received the last of its six longer-range Airbus A321neos, completing its order of 15 new planes last year, the rest being four A350s and five Bombardier Q400s. The A321neo is now used for non-stop flights going to Brisbane, Papua New Guinea, Sydney and Sapporo.

PAL now has 98 planes in its fleet. Used for long-haul flights are the six Airbus A350-900s and 10 Boeing 777-300ERs. It deploys 15 Airbus A330s for routes going to Asia Pacific, Australian and Middle Eastern destinations. The rest of the fleet are six longer-range A321neos, 24 A321 Classics, 19 A320s, 10 De Havilland Dash-8-400s and classic versions of Q300/400.

The attributable net loss of PAL operator PAL Holdings, Inc. ballooned to P3.33 billion in the first semester, up 138% year on year, fueled by higher expenses mainly due to the increase in depreciation from implementing a new accounting standard.

In July, the carrier welcomed Mr. Santa Maria as its new president, replacing long-time leader Jaime J. Bautista who retired in June.

PAL Vice Chairman Lucio “Bong” K. Tan, Jr. said the company may miss its target of returning to profit this year, but efforts are under way to minimize costs by improving synergies and tapping aviation consultant Lufthansa Consulting GmbH. — Denise A. Valdez