Philippine Airlines (PAL) is deploying its Airbus A350-900s to upgrade key long-haul routes and might use 2019’s deliveries to open new international markets.

The carrier has received four A350-900s from a total order for six. It will use the aircraft to start direct flights from Manila to New York Kennedy from Oct. 29, replacing a one-stop service via Vancouver. PAL has a high-gross-weight version of the aircraft, so will carry a full load of 295 passengers each way on this route, PAL president Jaime Bautista said on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines assembly in Jeju, South Korea Oct.19.

The initial four aircraft are sufficient to allow PAL to operate the 4X weekly New York flights and its flights from Manila to London Heathrow, plus some frequencies on another route such as San Francisco, Bautista said.

PAL’s last two A350s from its current order are scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of 2019. These will allow the carrier to consider adding another long-haul route to the US or Europe, Bautista said. Any such route launch would probably occur in the 2019 fourth quarter.

The carrier has previously said it was interested in adding a route to Chicago or Dallas. However, Bautista said PAL was now looking at Seattle as a potential new destination because the airline believes it would be more profitable than the other US cities.

PAL is also adding Airbus A321neos to its fleet. It has four, with two more expected by the end of the year. The airline has another 15 on order after the first six are delivered.

The A321neos are used on routes to Australia and sometimes to Japan. The airline plans to deploy the A321neos on a route to Sapporo from Dec. 7. PAL is also considering using the new narrowbody to launch service to New Delhi in the 2019 first  quarter, Bautista said.

On the financial front, PAL has been in talks with potential strategic investors, and hopes to make an announcement about this before the end of 2018, Bautista said.

Adrian Schofield,