Philippine Airlines (PAL) signed an agreement with Bombardier Commercial Aircraft here at the Paris Air Show converting the seven options from a deal for one dozen Q400 turboprops placed last December into firm orders. Based on list price, the order is valued at approximately €210 million ($235 million). Outfitted in a new dual class 86-passenger configuration, the purchase validates Bombardier’s faith in demand for turboprops with capacities of up to 90 passengers, said Fred Cromer, president of the airframer’s commercial division.
“The trend we see is toward larger turboprops,” said Cromer, adding that if demand for such an aircraft exists, “Guess what? It’s already here.”
Said Jaime Bautista, president and COO of PAL, the Philippines flag carrier, “We used to be the only carrier in the Philippines. We used to be the dominant domestic player.” But low-cost carriers that entered the market early in the 2000s, catering to people who used to travel by boat and bus, “have grown faster than us, and the management of Philippine Airlines believes we should get back the market share we used to own.” The new Q400s will enable the carrier to do that, Bautista said. “We hope this will set a new standard in flying a turboprop in the Philippines.”
The Q400s will be outfitted in dual class, economy and premium economy configurations, with seat pitches of 29 inches and 33 inches respectively. The first of the one dozen now-firm orders, intended to replace aging Q400s in its current fleet, will be delivered next month, with one per month following through November, representing the five initial firm orders. Deliveries of the converted option orders commence next March and will total five in 2018, with the remaining two coming in the latter part of 2019.
Bombardier is still seeking a launch customer for a single-class, 90-passenger configured model. Asked if passengers would find the 28-inch pitch between rows in the 90-seat, single class configuration uncomfortable, Cromer said, “Seat technology has evolved—the technology of seats creates comfort, and we think we’ll deliver a very comfortable flying experience with 90 seats on the aircraft.” Bombardier has a current backlog of 24 orders for the Q400, but Cromer hinted the company could land more sales here at Le Bourget, and would provide an update on the unfilled orders at “the end of the air show.”