Philippine Airlines (PAL) planes are seen parked on tarmac in Manila International Airport in Pasay city, Sept. 9, 2014. — REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO/FILE PHOTO

THE holiday season, which is usually the busiest time of the year for airlines, will continue to be challenged by government-imposed restrictions, especially the compulsory 10-day quarantine, but embattled Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL) remains hopeful that air passenger traffic would increase.

“As long as we are allowed to fly more passengers…, we should have an uptick. We are now entering what typically will be the peak period for travel in the Philippines, the so-called ‘Ber’ months,” PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert F. Santa Maria said in a recent interview on Net 25, the television network of Eagle Broadcasting Corp.

“The challenge will be, if you are a Filipino living overseas…, and you have two weeks of vacation that allows you to go home for Christmas and New Year, but you have to spend 10 days in a hotel for quarantine, you probably will not travel,” he noted. “If that quarantine is reduced to five days, then you will, and so we anticipate an uptick.”

PAL officials said last month that international travelers find requirements such as testing and quarantine periods to be “very burdensome,” forcing them to put off their travel plans.

They proposed that passengers be tested 72 hours prior to departure, quarantined upon arrival, and required take an RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test on the third day.

Passengers with a negative result should be allowed to leave the quarantine facility on the fifth day so that they can continue their quarantine at home.

PAL said the proposal, which has been presented to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” A. Concepcion III, would enable passengers to save up to P25,000.

PAL has filed for Chapter 11 creditor protection in the United States.

The airline’s listed holding company, PAL Holdings, Inc. (not included in the Chapter 11 filing), had been incurring losses even before the global health crisis. Its attributable net loss widened to P71.91 billion in 2020 from P10.31 billion in 2019.

“The biggest risk remains the nature of the pandemic. We just dealt with the Delta variant, and it looks like we are exiting the surge… We can’t predict whether another variant is in the works… that would create what they call a black swan event that will lead us back to a 2020 level type of lockdowns,” Mr. Santa Maria said. — Arjay L. Balinbin