The A340-300s are now slated to be phased out as new generation wide body aircraft are delivered. PAL is close to committing to at least six A350-900s for delivery from 2017. A formal announcement is expected by the end of 2015.
PAL is looking to acquire a new high gross weight (HGW) version of the A350-900 which is available from 2017 and will enable non-stop Manila-New York flights in both directions without payload limitations. Airbus has informed PAL that it does not need the recently launched A350-900ULR, which will be available from 2018 and has been ordered by Singapore Airlines for non-stops to the US.
Trans-Pacific flights from Manila are about three hours shorter than flights from Singapore. But flights from eastern North America to Manila are still slightly too long for the current version of the A350-900 or the 777-300ER.
PAL is also looking at using A350-900 HGW aircraft to potentially upgrade Toronto to non-stop and launch a fourth destination in the US. Chicago is the most likely new destination for the A350-900 HGW.
PAL has also been evaluating other potential US markets in both the east and west coasts. New destinations in the western US can be launched using the existing wide body fleet, potentially as early as late 2016 as the two additional 777-300ERs are delivered. PAL previously served Las Vegas and at one point was considering San Diego, which has a large Filipino community.
A fleet of eight 777-300ERs and six A350-900s will enable modest growth of the long-haul network with a focus on North America. Even if PAL ultimately opts for a few more A350s the long-haul growth should be manageable.
PAL is likely to remain for at least the medium-term the only non-stop operator between Philippines and continental North America, which has a large a loyal Filipino population. PAL is fortunate to only have to compete against North Asian carriers in the Philippines-North America market as one-stops via the Middle East is a much longer option.