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PAL eyes new routes as it readies for A350 arrival in 2018

Philippine Airlines (PAL) will look at resuming Cebu-Los Angeles services, one of a number of flights under evaluation for when its new fleet of Airbus A350s begin operations.

The carrier will start taking delivery of six A350-900s next summer.

“We have started working on the entry of service of this aircraft,” PAL chief executive and president Jaime Bautista tells FlightGlobal in an interview in London. “Our deliveries are June, August, September and December. Then March and June [2019] complete our delivery.”

The first aircraft will be deployed on flights to New York JFK and London Heathrow. “As we take delivery of these aircraft we will introduce new destinations in the US, to Chicago and Seattle. It is a smaller airplane than the 777, so it’s a good airplane to fly to new destinations."

Philippine Airlines operates a widebody fleet of eight Boeing 777-300ERs and six A340-300s. The latter, all of which are more than 15 years old, will be replaced by the A350s. The new jets are configured with 295 seats, an increased on the 254-seat configured A340s.

“We will start retiring the Airbus A340. So in terms of growth, it’s not really that much, we are just adding 40 seats [per aircraft],” says Bautista.

London is PAL's only European destination, but Bautista says the airline is looking at the possibility of serving Paris and Rome.

He also notes the A350 will enable the airline to look again at the Cebu-Los Angeles service it dropped in May this year after little more than a year in service.

“We stopped it because we were not using the right kind of aircraft, the A340 – there are many times of the year where we stopped in Guam. We promised the market it would be a nonstop flight, but there are some limitations with the range of the aircraft, especially during times of strong wind in the Pacific,” he says. “With the A350, I think we can revisit Cebu-Los Angeles, which is a good market.”

Bautista was in London to mark the carrier’s upgrade of its Manila-Heathrow service. The airline has replaced A340s with Boeing 777s on the route and will also raise frequency on the route from four times a week to daily. It marks an upgauge in aircraft on the route to the 370-seat 777 aircraft – which includes six seats more in the premium cabin.

“We only have a little over 25% of the market. It is the only non-stop flight between London and the Philippines. Many passengers take our flight, so with a better aircraft and services, we are certainly optimistic,” he says, noting existing load factors are in the high 70s for the route. “We are very optimistic that this change in capacity will contribute to us getting a good share of the market and the route being profitable.”

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