Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Tuesday announced it is now implementing a company-wide workforce reduction program as part of a comprehensive recovery overhaul plan due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, PAL said the employee reduction program covers about 2,300 workers or 30% of the airline’s workforce.

“The total includes both voluntary separations and involuntary retrenchment, and the affected personnel will continue to be employed until mid-March 2021,” it said.

The retrenchment program was communicated to employees as early as October 2020, the airline said.

Prior to the retrenchment, PAL said it chose to implement temporary furloughs and flexible working arrangements to hold off job cuts “as long as possible” and ensure that its employees continued to receive salaries and benefits, particularly medical benefits, during the height of the pandemic.

The carrier said frequent communication with employees kept them updated on the status of the company.

“This has been an extremely difficult and painful decision. For our colleagues who are leaving, rest assured that we are committed to support you through this transition. We extend to you our deepest gratitude for your years of hard work and dedicated service, and we will always cherish the ties you have established with the PAL family,” said PAL president Gilbert Sta. Maria.

PAL said the retrenchment was carried out after a comprehensive system-wide review process and is “part of the company’s overall recovery initiatives amid the ongoing pandemic that has massively affected the global airline industry.”

While demand for air travel slowly returns, the airline said that it is still far from pre-pandemic levels.

PAL noted that it 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.

Since March last year, the airline said it has suspended capital expenditures, reduced management salaries, deferred lease payments and slashed non-essential expenses.

PAL said that the affected employees will continue to receive their salaries and medical benefits until the effective date of separation.

It added that support includes outplacement assistance and employability initiatives to help ease the transition.

Meanwhile, PAL also assured its customers and partners that current operations will continue without disruption.

“PAL will continue to gradually increase international and domestic flights as demand recovers,” it said.

“In addition to regular scheduled services, the flag carrier continues to mount special repatriation flights to help bring home stranded Filipinos from the Middle East, Europe, North America and all over Asia,” it added.

PAL, likewise, said it operates all-cargo services to meet the essential cargo transport needs of the public and support economic supply chains.

The airline said it will also be supporting the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines, once available. -MDM, GMA News