The listed operator of Philippine Airlines (PAL) posted a P9.4-billion loss in the first quarter of 2020, reflecting the stagge­ring impact the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has unleashed on the aviation sector.

Taipan Lucio Tan’s PAL Holdings Inc. said in a stock exchange filing on Friday that losses widened from P838.2 million in the same period in 2019.

The losses came as the airline navigated flight cancellations and travel bans in the run up to the March 2020 lockdown of Metro Manila, which caused the grounding of almost all flights in the Philippines.

Passenger ticket sales, which accounts for the bulk of PAL’s revenue, fell 21.4 percent during this period. Total revenue went down 18.3 percent to P32.1 billion while expenses increased 5.2 percent. PAL said flying costs went up due to hedging losses.

The flag carrier is still reeling from three straight years of losses. Last month, PAL president Gilbert Santa Maria said Tan infused additional capital into the carrier to keep operations afloat and to save jobs.

The capital infusion was made via cash deposits from Tan’s Buona Sorte Holdings Inc.

Specifically, the company deposited P11.41 billion into PAL Holdings last year and another P4.92 billion in the first quarter of 2020 for a total of P16.33 billion.

Santa Maria earlier told ANC that without that money, “Philippine Airlines would probably not be here anymore.”

PAL said in its filing that it plans to keep flying despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“The group’s performance was severely affected by the economic condition in the country,” PAL Holdings said. “Nevertheless, the group is committed to keep the flag carrier continuously flying in the safest condition even in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.”

In his interview, Santa Maria did not rule out the possibility of further layoffs. He said a slower recovery in demand would likely prompt more job cuts.

Last February, PAL laid off 300 of its employees or 5 percent of the workforce.


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