TravelNews: New Planes & Seats for Philippine Airlines

The fastest growing airline market is Asia and there is a constant stream of news about new routes, new planes and new business class or premium economy class seats to make your travels better. Philippine Airlines (PAL), after fighting their low-cost competitor Cebu Pacific Airlines for years, wants to become a 5-star airline and is now putting the money where the mouth is, by investing into new planes. It’s exciting news, promising improvements for passengers across the board!

Recently PAL received a new Boeing B777, the plane they use for their routes to the United States and Europe. While most airlines these days try to squeeze more seats into their new planes, PAL is instead improving the seat quality in each cabin. The Business Class cabin receives Zodia Aura seats that are fully flat – a nice improvement over current comfortable, but angled-flat seats. They are held in neutral blue and beige tones and remain in a high-density 2-3-2 layout without direct aisle access for half the business class passengers. A PAL insider reports that this is due to maintain consistency across the fleet of B777 and avoid the operational problems from having planes with different capacity operating the same routes – understandable, but still unfortunate for passengers.

New PAL B777 Business Class, courtesy of PAL

New PAL B777 Business Class, courtesy of PAL

The Economy Class cabin also gets new seats in the same 3-4-4 layout, offering 1 extra inch of legroom for a comfortable 34inches – that’s more than most airlines offer these days in Economy Class and close to Premium Economy! They also receive new entertainment systems with larger screens, a welcome upgrade!

An even bigger improvement is coming to Philippine Airlines’ fleet of Airbus A330 planes. Starting with their two-class A330 currently carrying a total 414 passengers in Premium Economy and Economy class, they will install all new seats throughout the cabin. Up front, the planes will have 18 fully flat business class seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, offering direct aisle access to all business class passengers – a first for PAL, making this their best hard product yet! They also have privacy screens above the arm rest for extra separation on the middle seats. These are Thomson Vantage XL seats, one of my favorite business class seats: They offer a long and pretty wide seat, are very comfortable and offer good privacy.

Thomson Vantage XL, PAL decor; courtesy of PAL

Thomson Vantage XL, PAL decor; courtesy of PAL

In another first for the airline, PAL is introducing a true Premium Economy product. The current Premium Economy cabin uses standard Economy seats with an extra 3in of seat pitch for a total of 34in – funny enough, the exact same pitch a standard Economy seat on the new B777 has! The new seats will be wider at 19in, have a 38in pitch and feature 13in video screens, USB and power outlets at every seat. That makes them competitive to Premium Economy seats on Singapore Airline or Cathay Pacific!

Zodiac Premium Economy; courtesy of PAL

Zodiac Premium Economy; courtesy of PAL

The Economy Cabin will also get new seats, with 17in width, a 32in pitch and a 2-4-2 layout, also more comfortable than the current 3-3-3 layout! They’ll all have their individual 10in video screens, a nice size for economy class! The photo below was in the press kit, but seems to show a photoshopped B777, not a A330 (you can see a third seat near the window).

Economy Class, courtesy of PAL

Economy Class, courtesy of PAL (NOT photo of A330!)

Once the current two-class A330 have been reconfigured, a PAL Insider says that the remaining two-class A330 will also be renovated to these specifications, making the A330 the best plane in the PAL fleet from a passenger perspective!

I am looking forward to trying out these new products as they enter service, especially the new A330. While it will be almost impossible to tell which seats you’ll find on the B777, it will be much easier to see based on the seatmaps for the A330!  You can read my reviews of PAL Business Class and Economy Class to get an idea what service, food and entertainment to expect!
I was very skeptical of Philippine Airlines’ claim to become a 5-star airline, but this is certainly a step into the right direction! 

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