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PAL unlikely to lay-off employees in the near term

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is unlikely to lay-off employees in the near term, according to its President, Gilbert Sta. Maria. In an interview with ABS-CBN, he said, "At this point in time, it would be extremely inhuman of us to drop our employees on the streets while a pandemic is raging."

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PAL laid-off around 300 administrative and ground-based employees last February as the company mades changes to its structure in order to be more profitable.

Sta. Maria however did not discount the fact that the company is losing billions in revenue due to the CoviD-19 pandemic that had resulted to the grounding of its aircraft. The Philippine government imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) over Luzon and some regions in the country which resulted to restrictions in domestic and international air travel.

"For every month the crisis has passed, we’ve lost over $300 million in revenue, every single month. So now that two months have passed plus the losses in February and March, we’ll be approaching close to $1 billion or P50 billion in revenues that have disappeared because of the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

The airline will later on be assessing the situation and shall make decisions and changes from there depending on the rate of recovery. 

“The reality is demand is probably not going to recover for about two, three years so we will have an excess of employees. The question is, what the trajectory of the recovery will be. If the recovery is going to be rapid, then we may end up having to retain as more employees than we anticipate. If this is a very long L-shaped recovery then all bets are off,” Sta. Maria said.

Sta. Maria however said that a reduction in fleet may also mean that manpower will have to be reduced. He said, “for example, if we find out that we are going to need to return say 10 to 20 percent of our aircraft because demand just isn’t there – so we don’t have to pay rent, we’ll return the aircraft – well that means we’re going to have to reduce our flight crews and our cabin crews by similar amount because we will have fewer aircraft."

PAL suspended commercial passenger flights last March due to the ECQ which restricted domestic and international air travel to and from the Philippines. The airline however continued to operate all-cargo domestic and international flights. It also continues to operate special humanitarian flights to ferry out stranded foreign nationals in the Philippines and to fly back Filipinos.

Many global airlines have reduced their manpower as a result of the coronavirus crisis that has caused a steep decline in passenger air travel demand. Just last March, around 150+ Cebu Pacific probationary cabin crew were laid-off as a measure for the company to reduce costs. Just recently, Qatar Airways laid-off a number of flight attendants. Air New Zealand also laid-off close to 1,000 cabin crew due to downsizing measures as a response to the current CoviD-19 situation.

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