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16
Jun

PAL defers delivery of A321NEO planes

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BusinessWorld Online

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES is pushing back the start of delivery of its Airbus A321 NEO (new engine option) planes to January, saying there are issues with the engines to be used for the aircraft.

“[For the A321 NEO] actually, it was already delayed, there’s some issues with the manufacturer of the engine but we were given assurance by the engine manufacturer that this will be fixed by next year,” PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters in a recent interview.

PAL has an existing order of 21 A321 NEOs, which was supposed to begin delivery by November.

“Our first aircraft delivery of the NEO will be [on] January 2018 from November this year, so it’s three months delayed,” he said.

The new jets -- part of the A320 single-aisle jetliner family -- are usually flown short-haul but are more fuel-efficient.

PAL’s announcement comes a week after Cebu Pacific said it is deferring the start of delivery of 32 A321 NEOs to end 2018 until 2022, “due to delays with the Pratt & Whitney engines selected to power the aircraft.” The planes were originally scheduled to be delivered starting September 2017 until 2021.

For PAL, the A321 NEO units were supposed to replace old ones flying regional and domestic routes.

“There are airplanes sana that we will return or dispose kasi mga luma na, then we will replace with the new ones so i-extend lang namin... [there are] two or three A320s that we will either sell or return to the lessor,” Mr. Bautista said.

The new planes could also be used to service new routes, although current congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is hampering such plans.

“Marami sana tayong pwede liparan but we are affected by unavailability of slots in Manila, masyado ng congested yung airport natin so yung available is mostly evening flights. So what we can do, if there are new slots, new destinations which are good or profitable, then will stop flying to the less profitable areas,” the PAL chief added.

The Lucio C. Tan-led airline is currently upgrading its fleet as it targets to become a four-star airline by year end and to join the ranks of those with five-star ranking by 2020.

Aside from the A321 NEO planes, Mr. Bautista said PAL is awaiting the delivery of its Q400 turboprops from Bombardier Commercial Aircraft starting July until November.

“This year, next month, we’re taking delivery of our first Q400, this is an 86-seater airplane which we will fly domestically. We will use this for our Cebu hub to replace older Q400s,” Mr. Bautista said.

PAL late last year announced it finalized a deal to buy a dozen planes from Bombardier worth $401 million, which included an order for five, 86-seater Q400 aircraft plus purchase rights for an additional seven Q400 aircraft.

The flag carrier also has a $7-billion purchase deal with Airbus for the delivery of additional planes between 2014 and 2020.

PAL shares gained 4.95% or 25 centavos to P5.30 apiece on Thursday. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin