PAL flies longest route ever ahead of restart from COVID-19

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 10:15 AM | Updated as of May 23 2020 12:49 PM

A Philippine Airlines Boeing 777. Handout

MANILA -- Philippine Airlines said Thursday it flew its longest non-stop flight ever, bringing Filipinos home from Miami on a special mission, as it prepared to restart operations from a 2-month-long grounding due to COVID-19.

The flag carrier, along with Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines are seeking an "emergency credit line" to cope with heavy losses, Philippine Airlines COO Gilbert Santa Maria said. At PAL alone, year to date losses are nearing $1 billion (P50.6 billion).

"We are not in immediate danger of bankruptcy," Santa Maria told ANC's Market Edge.

The 10,000-mile journey from the Florida capital to Manila to pick up stranded Filipinos is PAL's duty, Santa Maria said.

"We can't wait to fly again. We're eagerly awaiting the end of the lockdown," he said.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

Airlines around the world are "on the brink of bankruptcy," said Santa Maria. Among its flag carrier peers in Southeast Asia, Thai Airways sought restructuring from a bankruptcy court while Singapore Airlines recorded its first net loss.

Philippine Airlines is losing $300 million in revenue per month, compounded by losses from earlier this year. It incurred additional losses in 2019 due to a change in accounting rules, he said.

The flag carrier has used up half of the $600-million capital infusion from February, he said.

It would be "extremely inhuman" to lay off more workers at this time, Santa Maria said when asked about job cuts. He said the industry could take 2 to 3 years to recover.

Metro Manila and other urban centers are under an enhanced community quarantine or ECQ, which was "modified" or dialed down starting May 16 until May 31. The ECQ is a preparation for a shift to GCQ or general community quarantine with fewer restrictions.

Santa Maria said air travel could resume first between GCQ areas. On June 1, 5 to 10 percent of international flights and 20 to 30 percent of domestic routes could reopen, he said.