Tan daughter takes charge at PAL
Longtime Philippine Airlines (PAL) president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista has stepped down as the chief of the country’s flag carrier “to spend more time with his family,” according to several sources from within the group of taipan Lucio Tan.
The Inquirer learned that Bautista, 62, recently submitted his retirement letter, which was then accepted by Tan, who is also the airline’s chair and CEO.
There was no official statement from the company as of press time, but the Inquirer learned that Tan’s daughter, Vivienne, had been appointed officer-in-charge of the airline, which formed a key part of the tycoon’s business empire.
Airline officials familiar with the development said Bautista had intimated that he had been contemplating retirement for quite some time now to spend quality time with his family.
Known as “JJB” within the group, Bautista was plucked from semiretirement to again lead the airline after Tan reacquired full control of the company from the San Miguel group in 2014.
Replying to the Inquirer’s request for a comment on the issue, the outgoing PAL chief only said he was currently in Europe attending the Paris Air Show.
His retirement comes amid PAL’s ongoing refleeting and rebranding programs.
The airline was recently voted as the world’s most improved airline for 2019 by Australia-based global airline review firm AirlineRatings.com. Last year, the flag carrier was also adjudged second most improved airline in the world by the London-based airline survey firm Skytrax. As part of its refleeting program, PAL is acquiring brand-new, state-of-the-art, wide-bodied and single-aisle planes.
Earlier this month, Vivienne Tan—who officially held the rank of executive vice president, treasurer and chief administrative officer of the airline prior to being named its interim chief—sealed a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the company’s labor union, the PAL Employees Association (Palea).
“Despite the many challenges that Philippine Airlines is facing, my father made this new CBA his top priority in recognition of your long years of dedication to PAL,” she told employees in her first public remarks since joining the airline. “Our chairman truly values the partnership that we have and your contribution toward the achievement of our shared mission as a flag carrier.”
Palea union members make up 11 percent of the airline’s total workforce of 6,829 and the new labor deal is seen as being vital to the firm’s financial recovery as it expands its domestic and international route network.
At present, Philippine Airlines flies to 30 domestic and 40 international destinations, with 98 aircraft—the biggest fleet in the country.
PAL was also targeting to win a five-star rating by 2020, although cramped airline lounges and congested passenger terminals in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) were expected to delay this goal.
Bautista earlier told reporters that a target to attain the coveted SkyTrax status by next year would likely be delayed since one of the requirements of the five-star rating was a “very good, very beautiful lounge and we don’t have that yet here in Manila.”
He said congestion in Naia also had an adverse impact on passenger experience.
The SkyTrax rating takes into account “the overall experience of the passenger” and that includes the airport, he said.
PAL, which won its four-star status last year, had been gunning for the top rating since the ambition was first announced in 2016. Bautista said SkyTrax recertified PAL as a four-star carrier for this year.
A five-star rating will further validate the airline’s efforts to boost customer service, improve the inflight experience and acquire brand-new planes.
There are 10 airlines with a five-star rating. These include Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and All Nippon Airways, owned by PAL shareholder ANA Holdings of Japan. Those airlines also operate in hubs that are consistently recognized as among the world’s best airports.
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