COVID-19 surge grounds Philippine Airlines’ flights

·2 min read
A Philippine Airlines Boeing 767 airplane sits at a gate at Los Angeles International Airport on May 24, 2018. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
A FILE PHOTO: Philippine Airlines Boeing 767 airplane sits at a gate at Los Angeles International Airport on May 24, 2018. (Photo: DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

By Annalisa Burgos

Philippine Airlines (PAL) canceled dozens of domestic flights and a handful of international flights to and from Tokyo this week, saying in an advisory that many passengers are rebooking or canceling because they tested positive for COVID-19 or are in precautionary isolation.

The Philippines’ flag carrier also said many “frontline team members are unable to report for work.”

The news could be seen as a setback for PAL, which just emerged from voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and is implementing an ambitious restructuring plan.

PAL executives were optimistic about recovery after creditors and shareholders agreed to cut $2 billion in debt and take drastic steps to streamline operations, including investing in profitable routes and upgrading technology to improve a cumbersome booking and rescheduling process.

For many, it cannot come too soon. In the advisory, PAL said it is doing “all possible to process all passenger requests and relieve the longer call waiting times and ticket office queues.”

The carrier also faces headwinds of ongoing travel restrictions and the government’s cap of 4,000 overseas arrivals per day.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert F. Santa Maria said the carrier remains on course, “lining up a fairly expensive exit financing with aviation lenders.” He said he has not approached the government for financing since completing the Chapter 11 process.

When asked if the government would offer PAL a bailout, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said terms for financing were discussed prior to PAL filing for bankruptcy. Now that it’s complete, he said “the Department of Finance and its attached agencies are always ready to discuss requests of PAL and any in the private sector.”

Annalisa Burgos is a freelance journalist with 20 years of experience covering Asia and the United States. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @annalisaburgos and on Facebook: facebook.com/annalisaburgosnews. The views expressed are her own.

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