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By Tyrone Jasper C. Piad, Inquirer Business

Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) managed to book gains during the first quarter with the easing of mobility restrictions that boosted both passenger and cargo revenues.

On Friday, the flag carrier reported that it achieved an operating income of $33.8 million (P1.7 billion) in the first three months, which was a reversal from losses of $106.5 million (P5.3 billion) in the same period last year. Net comprehensive income, meanwhile, was at $22.6 million (P1.2 billion) in the first quarter.

PAL said this was the first time since 2016 that it saw a positive first quarter performance.

Higher revenues

Total revenues in the January-March period reached $467 million (P24 billion), supported by passenger and cargo revenues which grew by 201 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

The recovery in travel volume was due to reopening of the Philippine borders and other regions, including Asia, Australia and North America, the airline said.

Operating expenses, meanwhile, were up 50 percent to $433 million (P22.3 billion) in the first three months because of higher fuel prices and more flight operations. PAL president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng welcomed the better operating results of the airline but stressed they “must not lose sight of the considerable headwinds we continue to face, brought about by rising fuel prices, the economic fallout from geopolitical events such as the conflict in Ukraine, and the incomplete recovery in travel markets, as certain Asian regions have yet to fully open their borders.”

Last year, the flag carrier said that it booked $1.22 billion in comprehensive income after completing its Chapter 11 financial restructuring process.

Maintaining momentum

But it still incurred $302-million operation losses last year, albeit lower than $849 million in 2020, due to the pandemic.

After a strong first quarter performance, PAL is keen on keeping the momentum as it restores more flights and routes in anticipation of more leisure and business travel.

It sees achieving prepandemic level in its domestic network this year. In April, Ng said that capacity for local flights was at 80 percent of the 2019 level already.

For its international capacity, PAL reached 60 percent of the prepandemic level last month. Ng earlier said they will add more flights to other countries that have already reopened their borders.

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