By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is reinventing itself to be able to mount more cargo flights to generate revenues while still operating on limited capacities as the industry’s full recovery is expected to happen in 2023 yet.
Josen Perez de Tagle, PAL head of corporate affairs, in a webinar during the unveiling of the Philippine Travel Survey Report by the Asian Institute of Management in collaboration with the Department of Tourism, cited the need to reinvent its operations to become more agile to cope with the heavy blow the aviation industry suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To become an agile industry, Perez de Tagle said part of its strategy is for the Lucio Tan-owned airline to shift to more more cargo flights than passenger flights as part of its new normal products.
“Definitely we will have to be agile no matter how you put it. And one example for us is how we may have to operate more cargo flights. So, we have to repurpose some of our aircraft to fly cargo other than just passenger,” he said.
Since the earliest to return to any semblance of normalcy is by January next year yet and full recovery by 2023 yet, Perez de Tagle said PAL has to transition and reinvent themselves.
“That’s a lot of ground to cover, as I said. We’ve become more and more of a cargo airline because we said our airplanes could also be used to help preserve the critical supply chains, including carriage of PPV medicines, equipment, and all the kinds of goods that are needed to keep communities thriving,” he said.
During the lockdown period, Perez de Tagle said that PAL did not sleep. In fact, it was able to operate 100 flights mostly chartered flights for stranded foreign nationals, returning Filipinos, overseas Filipino workers, and cargo flights for medical equipment and personal protective equipment. That was, however, a far cry from its 300 daily flights pre-COVID.
Last June 1, PAL finally went back to regular flights but still on limited frequencies and routes as people can only travel for essential reasons like OFWs going out to return to their jobs abroad.
Domestically, they also cater to locally stranded individuals and those who have essential business reasons to travel.
But domestic flights are still limited because of varying concerns of local government units. For instance, the province of Bohol has very low COVID-19 cases but the provincial government would like to establish its testing laboratory first before allowing commercial flights or tourists to enter the country’s top tourist destination island.
Based on his presentation “Industry’s Path to Recovery”, Perez de Tagle showed a timetable where an industry stabilization phase is happening by January 2021 onwards yet and where volume of operations starts to grow back.
“It is a long road ahead, the next 6 to 7 months are still very tough. We will get back there in time but whatever it is we are here to help kickstart the domestic economy,” he said.