BUSINESS | COMPANIES

Sky’s the limit

Michelle Baltazar

Jaime Bautista, the president of Philippine Airlines, greets me with a firm handshake and a smile. It’s late in the afternoon and most of his co-workers have already left. He leads me to his office, a modest size room with a desk on one side and a meeting table on another.

Jaime Bautista, PAL chief executive and president
Jaime Bautista, PAL chief executive and president

In the corner of my eye, I notice two things: an oil painting showing four young boys playing with paper planes. In the sky behind them is a PAL airplane zooming past.

Below this painting is a table full of trophies: awards that PAL won through the years.

Bautista singles out the “CAPA Airline Turnaround of the Year 2007” award, a prestigious award from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) given to the most improved airline in the region.

He personally had a hand in steering the airline on course after it filed for receivership back in 1998. At the time, it struggled because of the Asian Financial Crisis and union strikes.

But the recovery strategy and reforms that the management executed in the years following worked. Things were looking up.

But then the global financial crisis (GFC) happened, threatening the travel industry and all carriers, including PAL.

Bautista says there is no doubt the crisis is a problem but unlike other airlines, PAL has been through it before.

“One advantage that we have is that we’ve filed for a bankruptcy arrangement,” he explains, “so in terms of experience, we’ve experienced this and implemented measures to combat the problems we encountered.”

The airline has come a long way in the punctuality stakes, too.

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