Philippine Airlines (PAL), which recently underwent an ownership change, plans to order a large number of and .
Industry executives say PAL, which already operates Airbus narrowbodies and widebodies, has decided to stay with Airbus. One of the executives said a decision will be announced as early as Aug. 28, but others say it may take longer to announce because no firm contract has yet to be signed.
Three industry executives say the order will be for 10 A330s and around 44 A321s. No decision has been made on the engines, the executives add.
The A321 order includes some A321NEOs, one of the executives says. But the bulk of the A321s on order are likely to be for the existing model, because two of the executives say PAL has secured delivery slots in 2013.
An Airbus spokesman declined to comment when contacted by AviationWeek. PAL’s spokesman was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails.
PAL President Ramon Ang, who also is president of Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp., in recent months said he was negotiating with Airbus andabout placing a large aircraft order.
San Miguel in April bought 49% of PAL Holdings from billionaire Lucio Tan, with a condition that San Miguel would help PAL renew its fleet.
According to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network, PAL’s narrowbodies are powered byengines, and all its widebodies, with the exception of its CFM-powered Airbus , use powerplants.
The carrier says it has four Airbus A319s, 14 A320s, eight A330s, four Airbus A340-300s, three-300ERs and five -400s.
PAL’s decision to go with the higher capacity A321 is significant. Not only does it add a new type to PAL’s fleet, it also mirrors a fleet decision by the airline’s largest local competitor, Cebu Pacific Air, which has ordered A321s.
Cebu Pacific CEO-advisor Garry Kingshott also has said publicly that slot constraints at Manila airport mean the importance of the larger capacity narrowbody “cannot be underestimated.”
With its higher capacity, PAL may also use the A321 to replace some of its widebodies on short-haul international routes. PAL, for example, operates A340s and 747-400s from Manila to Hong Kong.
The A321 has a much lower operating cost than the aging, four-engine widebodies.
As for PAL’s decision to order more A330s, it may be a sign that the airline is preparing to pull 777-300ERs from its medium-haul Asia Pacific routes, such as those it serves from the Philippines to Australia and Tokyo.
PAL originally ordered the 777-300ERs for routes to the U.S.
Some industry executives say Airbus’ ability to provide PAL with 2013 delivery slots for the A321s may have been the “trump card” and convinced PAL to choose Airbus rather than Boeing aircraft for the fleet renewal.
Prior to the PAL competition, it was widely thought among airlines, aircraft equipment suppliers and aircraft leasing companies that there were no 2013 delivery slots available for either the A320-family or the 737.