PAL gets fresh funds, flies longest route to bring home Filipinos in Miami

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MANILA – Cash-strapped Philippine Airlines gets lease of life anew as business tycoon Lucio Tan infused at least US$300-million or Php 15.2-billion into its coffer making it safe from immediate demise, according to PAL president Gilbert Santa Maria.

In a virtual TV interview on Thursday, Santa Maria said about Php 5-billion was already released for its operations this year especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, which drastically restricted air travel.  He confessed that without such funds, the airline will cease to exist now. 

He estimates that the airline would incur losses of up to US$ 1-billion by the end of May and the prospects are dim for an early recovery of the industry, which he thinks will be for another two years.  

“We are hanging on. We are waiting to fulfill our mission as the flag carrier,” he said.  The company’s losses in 2019 ballooned to Php 10.3-billion, making it the third consecutive year in the red, according to a report of PAL Holdings.

In February, the airline had laid-off 300 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce but Santa Maria did not consider new layoffs during the pandemic crisis.  “At this point in time, it will be extremely inhuman for us to drop our employees on the streets while a pandemic is raging,” he said.

Meanwhile, PAL also announced on Thursday that it flew its longest non-stop 10,000-kilometer flight ever, bringing Filipinos home from Miami, Florida, USA as it prepared to restart operation after the lockdown.  “Yes, we had made that flight to bring home stranded Filipinos.  It is our duty to do so,” Santa Maria further said.

Santa Maria acknowledged that all airlines in the country are on the brink of bankruptcy because of Covid-19 pandemic.  In fact, the dire situation has prompted industry group Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, PAL and other major domestic airlines, to seek government’s help in accessing emergency credit lines to help them survive the pandemic.