Is an A380 in Philippine Airlines Future?

European-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus is hopeful that it can sell its US$ 320 million A380 super jumbo planes to the Philippines, despite skyrocketing fuel prices.

Sean Lee, Airbus head of Regional Communications-Asia believes that the A380 is the most ideal for long-haul routes, such as Manila to North America.

“We know that there’ll be a strong requirement for the A380 in Manila and US routes. We will be marketing this kind of aircraft to Philippine Airlines (PAL),” said Lee.

A380 has a seating capacity of 555, the maximum is 820, he noted.

He said, ”But as of now, we have no formal negotiations yet. Our marketing people will come here for the negotiations.”

However, Lee said that local airport authorities have to make “minor changes” to accommodate the huge aircraft which accounts for 75 percent of all passenger aircraft flying to the country. “The country should invest in expanding its taxiways and docking or air bridges to accommodate the A380 which is bigger than rival Boeing.”

Airbus has 17 customers along with 196 firm orders and 4 commitments. Some of the orders are Emirates, 58; Qantas Airlines, 20; Singapore Airlines, 19; Lufthansa, 15; Air France, 12; British Airways, 12; ILFC, 10; Korean Airlines, 8; Malaysia Airlines, 6 and others.

Lee said the company is preparing to deliver A380 planes to Emirates this month and to Qantas this September.

The A380 is the most advanced, spacious and efficient airliner ever conceived. It embodies the very latest technologies for materials, systems and industrial processes. Offering about a third more seating and far more available floor space than its closest competitor, the A380 will deliver an unparalleled level of comfort, with wider seats and aisles, open spaces for passenger to stretch their legs and access to lower deck amenities.

Overall, Airbus has received 8,873 aircraft orders from 296 customers as of April this year, and has delivered 5,291 planes. At present, 288 operators worldwide use around 5,000 Airbus planes and the company has a backlog of 3,655 planes for delivery.

Asia Pacific, which accounts for 27 percent of all Airbus orders to date, remains a key market for the manufacturer. The region has 1,195 planes to service with 61 operators and accounts for 34 percent of Airbus backlog with 1,271 aircraft still to be delivered.

“Asia Pacific will have the largest growth and the highest demand for aircraft. These are already mature markets. The growth is here,” Lee said.

Airbus' relationship with the Philippines dates back to the company’s early days in 1978, when PAL placed an initial order for the original A300B4, the world’s first wide body twinjet airliner. The first of these aircraft, dubbed as the “Lovebus”, was delivered in 1979.

In 1993, PAL joined the list of world-class customers for acquiring the A340, and placed orders for the twin-engine A330 and A320.

In December 2005, the airline placed an additional order of A320 and plans to lease additional capacity.

Today, PAL operates 18 A320 family aircraft on its domestic network, eight A330s and regional services across Asia and four A340-300s on long-range routes to the United States. PAL currently has four more A320 on order for delivery in the second half of this year.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific (CEB) signed a contract for the purchase of 12 single aisle A319s and for the lease of two additional A320s, in order to replace its existing fleet of DC-9 and B757 aircraft.

The airline placed a follow-up order for 10 A320s in March 2007.

Today, CEB operates a fleet of 18 A320 family aircraft, including 12 purchased from Airbus and six on lease. The carrier has 10 more A320s on firm order for future delivery.


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