By Tyrone Jasper C. Piad
Philippine Airlines (PAL), which is celebrating its 82nd anniversary, is keen on further regaining strength as it targets to end this year with 75 operational aircraft in its fleet amid the projected growth in passenger volume.
Christoph Gaertner, vice president for network planning of the flag carrier, shared in a press briefing in Manila on Wednesday they were in the process of reactivating seven aircraft this year to achieve the said goal. Currently, PAL is operating 68 aircraft.
He told reporters on the sidelines the units to be refurbished are mostly A320s and A321s, which would be deployed amid its route expansion plan.
In the long term, PAL president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng said they were eyeing to restore the number of their aircraft to prepandemic level of 98, or more, by around 2027 in anticipation of growing passenger movement.
But he stressed that reactivating more units would be supported by the availability of aircraft engines and other necessary input.
“Supply chain is one of the biggest challenges as well. So, if we wanted to activate our aircraft, we are also dependent on the suppliers of engines as well as other spare parts,” Ng explained.
“We are open to every supplier. Currently, we are actually in the process of negotiating with them,” he added.
Recently, PAL took delivery of Airbus A330 widebody aircraft offering 18 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats and 267 economy seats. It will service routes to Hawaii, Australia and several destinations in Asia.
The carrier registered an average passenger load factor of around 80 percent in the first quarter, signaling optimism for the company’s financial performance for the year.
It is set to increase flight capacities to several destinations in the coming months, including routes to China such as Beijing. Flights to the popular Asian destination were restarted in January following the easing of border restrictions.
PAL is also resuming regular flights for Manila-Macau route in April. The airline, meanwhile, is set to offer last-mile cargo service delivery. Ng said this service could support the operations of small and medium enterprises in the advent of e-commerce.
At 82, PAL director Lucio Tan III said the airline is “younger and more dynamic as we keep pace with our customers.
PHOTO: PAL president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng and PAL director Lucio Tan III addressing the media on Wednesday