PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL), the Philippines’ air flag carrier, is the first airline company in the country to have a state-of-the-art Airbus A321-200 plane in its fleet, and its first Airbus 321 plane has arrived in Manila. Flown in by Captain Roland Narciso from Finkenwerder Airport in Hamburg, Germany, the site of Airbus’ A320-series final assembly line, the brand-new plane was blessed by Fr. Mario Bije at the PAL Express R1 Hangar along Andrews Ave., Pasay City, this morning (August 8, 2013).
The arrival of the new Airbus A321 plane heralds an exciting new era for PAL, as it puts in motion the fleet renewal program of the airline company which was set almost a year ago. PAL had signed an order with Airbus for 55 aircrafts, totaling $7 billion and considered as the largest aircraft purchase in Philippine history. The order was for 45 single-aisle A321s and 10 wide-body A330-300s, but PAL has since ordered 10 additional A330-300s, thus raising the total orders to a record 65 aircrafts.
The A321 plane, which is regarded as one of the most modern and safest airplanes, will be deployed by PAL on high-density domestic routes such as Manila-Cebu and Manila-Davao as well as regional routes like Manila-Singapore, Manila-Hong Kong and Manila-Bangkok. It shall be alternating with the smaller Airbus A320 on such routes.
“The advantage of the Airbus A321 plane is that, since it has a maximum capacity of 199 passengers, it will allow us to fly more passengers to our destinations for the same cost,” explains PAL’s head of Philippine sales, Salvador Britanico Jr.
The Airbus A321 features a tri-class cabin – 12 Business Class seats, 18 Premium Economy seats and 169 Regular Economy seats with ergonomically configured and designed seats.
Business Class seats, which are two in a row on each side of the single-aisle aircraft, offer a comfortable pitch of 37 inches along with an ergonomic design that provides greater knee and leg room to go with an articulating bottom support. Each seat also features a 120-degree recline, six-way adjustable headrest, extendable leg rest, universal sockets and USB ports.
The Premium Economy seats, which are a new PAL product, have “slim line” seats that feature a 34-inch pitch, under-seat storage, four-way adjustable headrest and articulating bottom where the seat pan slides forward while the back reclines. This novel design optimizes passenger space and makes passengers feel more comfortable during a flight.
Regular Economy seats offer the same comforts at a pitch of 30 inches.
Described as the most efficient single-aisle jetliner ever built, the twin-engine Airbus A321 has a stretched fuselage, measuring 146 feet, which is nearly 23 feet longer than the A320, enabling it to accommodate not just more passengers but also more cargo. Its length and cabin width of 12 feet and 1-inch also make the aircraft the longest and widest among all single-aisle aircrafts flying today, thus enhancing passenger comfort. Aside from its technical superiority over other aircrafts, the A321 also has a pleasant, cozy and comfy interior design that’s unmistakably Filipino, with the front of the cabin swathed in buoyant beige from the carpet to the seat covers and curtains to the laminates, although the seats in the Regular Economy class are wrapped in blue.
While the inaugural flight of the first Airbus A321 aircraft of PAL is still being determined, the second A321 plane is expected to arrive next Friday, August 16, 2013, followed by the delivery of the airline’s first A330-300 HGW (High Gross Weight) plane by the end of September this year. Delivery of the rest of the aircrafts being acquired by PAL from Airbus will be staggered into 12 aircrafts by the end of 2013, 17 in 2014, 15 in 2015, 10 in 2016, two in 2017, four in 2018 and four in 2019.
The arrival of PAL’s first Airbus A321 thus kicks off the airline company’s short-range fleet renewal program. At the simple blessing ceremony this morning (August 8, 2013), PAL management also treated guests, including members of media, to a hearty brunch on board the aircraft to sample the exquisite dining experience being offered by PAL. Having worked with a number of renowned chefs in the country to come up with sumptuous inflight meals and redefine inflight dining altogether, both for short-range and long-haul flights, PAL offered guests with a choice of Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Fritatta and Grilled Chicken Sausage (by Chef Clifton Lyles) or Beef Adobo Flakes (by Chef Fernando Aracama) for the main course during meal service – but not before everyone was first served an appetizer platter of cheese, smoked salmon, cottage cheese, smoked chicken slices and wedges of boiled egg with coffee or juice.
Just like passengers in a regular flight, guests were issued boarding passes complete with assigned seats after the short and simple blessing of the aircraft. After everyone shall “boarded” the plane, PAL officials, led by SVP for airline operations Ismael Augusto Gozon and head of Philippine sales Salvador Britanico Jr., as well as spokesperson Cielo Villaluna, took to the plane’s central address system and talked about not just the features of the new A321 and its significance to PAL’s fleet renewal program but also about the company’s other development plans for the future.
The hearty brunch came as the “delicious” finale.