Philippine Airlines improves product in Papua New Guinea market as A321neos are introduced

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is adding capacity and upgrading its product in the Papua New Guinea market after selecting Manila-Port Moresby as the third route for its new A321neo fleet.


Summary:

  • PAL has selected Manila-Port Moresby as its third A321neo route after Manila-Brisbane and Manila-Sydney;
  • The A321neo enables PAL to significantly improve its business product in the PNG market as it offers lie flat business class seats, compared to recliner style seats on the A320ceo now used on Manila-Port Moresby;
  • PAL is also increasing capacity to Port Moresby by 44% as it adds a fourth weekly frequency – in addition to upgauging to the A321ceo.

PAL launched three weekly flights to Port Moresby at the end of 2015 and is one of only three foreign airlines serving PNG. As the other two foreign airlines are Australia’s Qantas and Virgin Australia, PAL is the only airline competing with Air Niugini in the PNG-Asia market.

PAL has been successful in the PNG market, competing against Air Niugini on the Port Moresby-Manila route. PAL’s success also lies in its ability to offer connections beyond Manila to around 40 international destinations throughout Asia – as well as to the Middle East and London. PAL has provided passengers heading from Port Moresby to Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo an alternative to Air Niugini, which historically has had very high fares in these markets. PAL also has provided new one-stop options in several important business markets for PNG that is not served by Air Niugini.

PAL has been serving Port Moresby using 156-seat A320ceos with 12 business class and 144 economy seats. The current business class product of recliner seats with 36in pitch is not ideal given Manila-Port Moresby is over five hours and operates overnight. Port Moresby and Beijing are currently PAL’s longest routes that are served with A320ceo family aircraft.

The A321neo enables PAL to offer business passengers heading to PNG a significantly better product, with the new aircraft configured with 12 lie flat business class seats. PAL also offers an upgraded economy class product on the A321neo with seatback IFE monitors and a spacious 156 seat cabin.

PAL took delivery of its first two A321neos in 2Q2018 and began deploying the variant on all Brisbane flights and some of its Manila flights in Jul-2018. Currently, the first two aircraft are deployed on four weekly Manila-Brisbane and five weekly Manila-Sydney services. PAL also has been temporarily deploying the A321neo on some flights from Manila to Davao and Bangkok, but these short A321neo routes will likely cease when PAL starts using the A321neo to Port Moresby on 09-Aug-2018.

The A321neo will initially generate 504 one-way seats on the Manila-Port Moresby route, which is a modest 8% increase compared to 468 seats currently. However, PAL is significantly increasing capacity to Port Moresby on 04-Sep-2018 as it introduces a fourth weekly frequency. The new four weekly A321neo schedule will generate 672 weekly one-way seats for a 44% increase, when compared to the current thrice weekly A320ceo schedule.

While 672 seats may not seem like a lot of capacity, it is for the PNG market. The entire PNG market currently has less than 9000 weekly international one-way seats. As 5000 – or 56% – of these seats are to Australia, PAL will have a 17% share of the non-Australia market.

Australia is by far the most popular destination from PNG with a large volume of business and leisure traffic. However, Australia is not useful for connections to Asia and Europe. The Philippines is the second largest international market from PNG and is served with four to five weekly flights (depending on the time of year) by Air Niugini, as well as the three – and soon four – weekly frequencies from PAL.

In addition to being a relatively strong local market, catering to Filipino workers and business traffic, Manila is geographically an ideal transit point for Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Singapore, which is served by Air Niugini, offers a much better transit experience for passengers but is generally expensive given Air Niugini’s high Port Moresby-Singapore fare and the high cost of an interline ticket on other airlines beyond Singapore.

PAL offers generally a cheaper and relatively convenient option. PAL also now offers the business class product, with lie flat seats available from Port Moresby and on connections to the Middle East and London, capable of attracting corporate traffic.