Airbus and the Philippines have a long-standing relationship, going back some 40 years to when Philippine Airlines ordered the cornerstone A300B4 wide-body jetliner. Since then, the European manufacturer has built business relationships in the country with products from across its commercial aircraft, defence and helicopter product lines. Airbus also is developing industrial partnerships in the Philippines, where local firms supply a wide range of equipment and parts for the company’s aircraft.
Airbus has a solid presence in the Philippine’s commercial airliner market, where it is the leading supplier of aircraft in the category above 100 seats. From the best-selling single-aisle A320 Family to the wide-body A330, A340 and A350 XWB jetliners, Airbus aircraft are flying with all the country’s major carriers, operating on routes that vary from short domestic hops to the longest intercontinental services.
The company’s relationship with the Philippines began in 1978, when Philippine Airlines (PAL) placed an initial order for the A300B4 – the world's first wide-body twinjet airliner. Affectionately dubbed the “Lovebus” by PAL, the initial aircraft arrived in Manila in 1979, marking the start of an extremely successful partnership.
As of late 2018, PAL operated 29 A320 Family aircraft on its network within the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region. PAL Express, the airline’s low-fare unit, operated another 18 A320 Family aircraft on its extensive domestic and regional network.
The carrier’s 15 A330 wide-body aircraft fly on medium- and long-haul services across the Asia-Pacific region and to the Middle East, while its four A340s operate on longer-range trans-pacific routes.
In 2016, the airline finalised a major purchase agreement with Airbus for the order of six A350-900s. The first aircraft was delivered in July 2018, marking the start of the rejuvenation of PAL’s long-haul fleet.
Cebu Pacific, the country’s leading low-cost carrier, became an Airbus customer in 2004 when it selected the A320 Family to replace its fleet of legacy aircraft. The airline operated 41 A320 Family aircraft in 2018, comprising 36 A320s and five A321s, on its network across the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2011, Airbus finalised a major order with Cebu Pacific for 32 of the latest-generation A321neo aircraft. This reaffirmed the fast-growing carrier’s all-Airbus fleet status in the jet category, with the aircraft enabling the airline to fly even further at a lower cost.
Cebu Pacific took delivery of the first of six leased A330-300 wide-body aircraft in June 2013 to start its long-haul low-cost operations. Three years later, the airline ordered two additional A330-300 aircraft directly from Airbus. In late 2018, the carrier’s eight A330s operated on services to the Middle East and Australia, as well as high-capacity domestic and regional routes.
AirAsia Philippines, the local affiliate of the AirAsia Group, operated 21 A320s on its domestic and regional network in 2018. The airline plans to grow its fleet in the coming years to meet rising demand for air travel to the country.
Airbus is the market leader in the Philippine civil and parapublic helicopter business segments. In 2018, there were 76 helicopters in service with 57 operators across the country – ranging from light single-engine models such as the H125 and H130 to the light twin H135 and H145 and the medium-weight H155 and Dauphin family. These rotorcraft operate on missions that include services to oil and gas operators, VVIP transport and commercial charters.
In 1997, the company set up Airbus Helicopters Philippines to focus on sales, marketing and support services in the country. The local unit operates out of a 4,500 square metre facility located within Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The Philippine Air Force ordered three Airbus C295 medium-lift transport aircraft in February 2014. The delivery of all three C295s was completed on time in February 2016, allowing the service to modernise its transport fleet. The aircraft undertake a wide variety of military and humanitarian missions for the Philippine Air Force.
Philippine aerospace companies have become increasingly important manufacturers of aircraft equipment and system parts for Airbus commercial aircraft over the years.
B/E Aerospace Philippines, which has a facility at Tanauan in Batangas province, produces galley systems for the A350 XWB. Moog Controls Corp., based in Baguio City, manufactures actuators and valve control systems for all Airbus programmes, including equipment used in primary and secondary flight controls aboard the A350 XWB.
As of late 2018, Airbus-related activity in the Philippines was valued at $300 million per year and supported skilled and sustainable employment for approximately 1,700 people. This is set to increase in the coming years in tandem with the anticipated ramp-up in the A350 production rates, contributing to the long-term development of the country’s aerospace sector.