TOULOUSE, France: Philippine Airlines (PAL) said on Friday received the first of its A330-300 jet from Airbus, which forms 20 it ordered from the aircraft manufacturer.
In 2012, PAL ordered 64 aircraft worth $9.5 billion, which is the largest aircraft purchase in Philip-pine history. The order comprises 44 A321s and 20 A330-300 High Gross Weight (HGW) slated for delivery between 2013 and 2019.
This year, 12 jets are on tap, including five A330-300 HGWs and seven A321s.
In ceremonies witnessed by members of the Philippine and French media, Airbus formally turned over a gleaming A330-300 jet, the vanguard of 20 such units on order, to Ismael Augusto Gozon, PAL senior vice president for operations.
The aircraft was then blessed and readied for the 19-hour ferry flight to Manila.
“This is a milestone for Philippine Airlines,” said Gozon.
“We now start a new phase of our fleet renewal, anchored on the new-generation A330-300 HGW,” he added.
Earlier, the carrier said that it is currently pursuing an aggressive transformation that covers fleet modernization, network ex-pansion and major service enhancement programs.
“This aircraft enables PAL to open up new frontiers in our rapidly growing network as well as in service innovations for our passengers,” the official said.
The new A330-300 HGW, with Philippine registry number RP-C8782, earlier went through several days of ground checks, test flights and technical evaluation at the main Airbus assembly facility before the formal delivery to PAL.
After the requisite post-flight checks in Manila, the new jet will be put on trial runs on selected domestic routes preparatory to its debut on PAL’s inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi on October 1, marking the flag carrier’s return to the Middle East after two and a half years.
The A330-300 HGW’s delivery launches the wide-body stage of PAL’s comprehensive fleet upgrading program, which began on August 7 with the arrival of the airline’s first Airbus A321, commencing the single-aisle aircraft phase.
PAL said that a second A321 was delivered on August 16 while a third unit, equipped with a new blended winglet design called “sharklets,” is due this week.
The High Gross Weight type is a vastly enhanced version of the classic A330. The designation derives from the airplane’s maximum take-off weight, which has been increased to 235 tons from the original 217 tons of the earlier A330 series.
This upgrade effectively extends the aircraft’s range by about 540 nautical miles (nm), to around 5,850 nm, enabling PAL to open up new routes that were out of range for the previous A330s.
The extra-weight capability also allows the flag carrier to sit an extra 112 passengers compared to its older A330 capacity of 302 passengers, and carry up to 12 tons more payload.
It accommodates 414 passengers, configured into two classes: premium economy, with 39 seats; and economy, with 375 seats.
The carrier said that the new fares for budget economy, regular economy and premium economy, which are currently available in all domestic flights, and business class on specific flights, are designed for today’s savvy travelers who are cost-conscious yet continue to have high expectations in terms of service quality.
“The four fare classes will allow customers to tailor fit their travel experience to their actual needs,” PAL said.
The new aircraft of PAL from Airbus are also equipped with advanced avionics from Thales of France.