PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL), the country’s flag carrier and Asia’s oldest airline, turns 80 this month amid a continuing pandemic-induced financial difficulty that fell upon the aviation industry globally.
PAL had seen the worst and the best of times, but this pandemic is one that could kill a weary spirit of the lesser stuff.
“We are still alive. We are still here.” Such was the inspiring message given by Philippine Airlines (PAL) President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Gilbert Santa Maria on the occasion of the flag carrier’s 80th anniversary.
Santa Maria vowed PAL is going to stay. “This great lady – Philippine Airlines – will stay aloft while she is in our care,” he vowed. This is despite the retrenchment of considerable number of its people, amid the continued grounding of its fleet as travel restrictions continue to dampen travelers’ plans.
“Despite the challenges our flag carrier has gone through, ‘Asia’s First’ is still the airline with a lot of heart. 310,000 of the 420,000 Overseas Filipinos came home via PAL from March 2020 up to the present. Within the same period, tens of thousands of foreign nationals flew back to their home-countries via PAL. At present, vaccines are being airlifted to keep our country safe,” Santa Maria noted.
He cited “divine intervention” and “divine inspiration” as reasons behind the airline’s continued survival.
“We must remain bold and fearless. We will continue to work to earn PAL’s future,” he said.
During this pandemic, PAL responded to the needs of Filipinos flying medicines, medical equipment, and bringing home stranded foreign tourists, overseas Filipinos and locally stranded individuals.
While demand for air travel is returning slowly, the flag carrier is “still far from pre-pandemic levels”, PAL had stated.
To date, PAL operates less than 30 percent of its normal pre-pandemic number of weekly flights, held down by lowered travel demand and travel restrictions nationwide and around the world.
Since March 2020, PAL has suspended capital expenditures, reduced management salaries, cut its workforce, deferred lease payments and slashed non-essential expenses.
Meanwhile, PAL has assured its customers and partners that current operations will continue without disruptions.
PAL assures it will continue to gradually increase international and domestic flights as demand recovers.
In addition to regular scheduled services, the flag carrier continues to mount special repatriation flights to help bring home stranded Filipinos from the Middle East, Europe, North America and all over Asia.
PAL likewise operates all-cargo services to meet the essential cargo transport needs of the public and support economic supply chains.
As always, Asia’s First Airline has risen to the challenges of the times. There is no doubt, it will continue to fly.