Mr. Lucio Tan III during the 81st Philippine Airline Anniversary, March 15. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

PHILIPPINE Airlines, Inc. (PAL), which celebrated its 81st anniversary on Tuesday, is working to strengthen its cargo business to take advantage of the e-commerce boom.

PAL, which hopes to return to its pre-pandemic size in two to three years, is studying to convert some of its aircraft to cargo-only airplanes.

“We are looking into that. We are exploring,” PAL’s newly appointed President and Chief Operating Officer Capt. Stanley K. Ng told reporters, adding that “the e-commerce is getting stronger.”

“We will innovate our business by integrating our cargo reservations system with a new cargo mobile app and website and create more cashless payment options and offer last-mile cargo deliveries directly to homes and offices, soon in the Philippines.”

PAL will have a one-way cargo flight from Asia to the United States to transport medical supplies. The airline will use the aircraft back as a passenger airplane, Mr. Ng also said.

PAL is also studying to acquire more aircraft in order to revert to its pre-pandemic size.

“It will take about two to three years because we’ve reduced our fleet size,” Mr. Ng said.

“We need to forecast the demand. If we forecast that the demand will be enough, then that’s the time when we can actually customize,” he added.

On the impact of the rising fuel prices on PAL’s operations, he said: “The fuel component is about 50% of our costs… We are actually managing it. We are looking into solutions on how to manage the situation right now.”

“We are working with the Civil Aeronautics Board to add some fuel surcharge to the fares. However, we will make sure that it will still be reasonable for passengers,” he added.

PAL also announced on Tuesday its 81st Anniversary Seat Sale. “It is our biggest sale of the year with the lowest fares, with over five million seats on sale from March 15 to 21,” Mr. Ng said.

“Next… by April, we will embark on a new ‘Project Open,’ a partnership between PAL and the Department of Tourism to revive the Philippine tourism industry on which many communities and local businesses depend.”

PAL Director Lucio C. Tan III said the company’s 81st anniversary is a “rebirth.”

“In overcoming the pandemic, we have created a new Philippine Airlines.”

“It’s a new PAL because we emerged in record time from our restructuring with fresh capital — $505 million infused by our chairman, Lucio C. Tan; lower debt — a $2-billion reduction in debt, as agreed with our major creditors via a 100% positive vote under the Chapter 11 process; and a streamlined fleet — anchored on 70 aircraft, from island-hoppers to wide-body long-haul aircraft including NEOs, A350s and B777s,” Mr. Tan noted. — Arjay L. Balinbin