Philippine Airlines keen on Brisbane-Manila non stops from 2018

A file image of a Philippine Airlines A321ceo. (Airbus)
A file image of a Philippine Airlines A321ceo. (Airbus)

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is planning further expansion in Australia from 2018 when the airline takes delivery of the A321neo.

The long-range narrowbody is likely to lead to Philippine Airlines offering nonstop flights between Manila and Brisbane, president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista says.

Currently, PAL serves the Queensland capital via a Manila-Darwin-Brisbane routing using A320 equipment.

However, decoupling the service to offer a nonstop Brisbane service is on the cards thanks to the A321neo.

“That will happen in 2018 when we take delivery of the A321neoLR, the one with additional centre tanks,” Bautista told Australian Aviation in an interview on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines annual conference in Manila in November.

The Airbus website lists PAL as having orders for 21 A321neo aircraft, without breaking down the order into A321neo and A321neoLR variants.

The A321neoLR has a typical range of 4,000nm, while Brisbane-Manila measures 3,125nm, according to the Great Circle Mapper.

In May 2015, the governments of Australia and Philippines agreed to an expansion of the bilateral air services agreement that lifted the number of seats available for Filipino carriers operating to the four major Australian gateways of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to 9,300 seats per week.

In addition to Brisbane, PAL also flies nonstop to Melbourne and Sydney with a mixture of A340 and A330 widebodies, as well as a Manila-Cairns-Auckland service with A320s.

Filipino low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is also on the Sydney-Manila route, as is Qantas.

Bautista said the airline was also keen to boost its existing daily service to Sydney, potentially to double daily, in 2018 as it took delivery of new aircraft and in recognition of the 10 per cent annual growth in the Australia-Phillipines market in recent years.

However, the veteran aviation executive cautioned that despite the double-digit growth, there remained plenty of capacity in the market, meaning yields remained under pressure.

“There should be more reasons for Filipino’s to travel to Australia and more reasons for Australians to travel to the Philippines,” Bautista said.

PAL has recently taken delivery of its eighth and final Boeing 777-300ER, while the airline has orders for six A350-900s.

Bautista said the Auckland service, launched in December 2015, was doing well, with the fifth freedom Cairns-Auckland sector helping sustain the route given the market was too small for nonstop flights from Manila to Auckland.

There are no nonstop flights between the Philippines and New Zealand. Air New Zealand did plan to offer a seasonal service from Auckland but shelved those plans in July 2016 due to what it described as “administrative delays in being able to make the new route available for sale”.