PAL Holdings has confirmed that it is implementing “a company-wide workforce reduction program” covering about 2,300 employees, or 30% of the airline’s workforce. The figure is slightly less than the 2,500 staff it estimated in early October that it would have to lay off.

The cuts comprise voluntary and involuntary measures, and the affected personnel will continue to be employed until mid-March 2021, the Philippine Airlines (PR, Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l) parent said in a statement on February 2.

“This has been an extremely difficult and painful decision,” Gilbert Santa Maria, the airline’s president and chief operating officer, underlined in the statement.

Demand for air travel is “still far from pre-pandemic levels,” the company said, adding that “PAL currently operates less than 30% of its normal pre-pandemic number of weekly flights, held down by lowered travel demand and travel restrictions around the world and throughout the Philippines.”

Before the job cuts, the airline implemented furloughs and flexible working arrangements. Since March 2020, it said, it had suspended capital expenditures, cut management salaries, deferred lease payments, and “slashed non-essential expenses.”

Santa Maria assured those who would be leaving that the flag carrier was “committed” to supporting them “through this transition”, reminding that it had informed the affected workers in October about the retrenchment and stressing it had only made the decision after a comprehensive review.

The company, owned by billionaire Lucio Tan, said that the furloughs had been implemented as a stop-gap measure “to hold off job cuts as long as possible and ensure that employees continued to receive salaries and benefits, particularly medical benefits, during the height of the pandemic.”

“PAL has assured its customers and partners that current operations will continue without disruptions,” the statement concluded, adding that it “will continue to gradually increase international and domestic flights as demand recovers.”

PAL Holdings posted a third-quarter net loss of PHP7.92 billion pesos (USD165 million), taking its nine-month loss to PHP28.85 billion (USD602 million).