AirAsia Philippines said Friday it plans to rehire some of its laid-off workers by the second quarter next year as it sees recovery in the domestic market.
“Rehiring to us is a top priority. As a matter of fact, hopefully by second quarter (2022), we will see if we are coming to that,” AirAsia Philippines chief executive Ricky Isla said in a virtual briefing.
“There will be more aircraft, more destinations, additional destinations or flights so that’s the first thing we will [do] to rehire pilots, cabin crews, engineers, and maintenance people,” he said.
AIrAsia laid off 624 employees at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It retained about 1,500 staff to serve its domestic and international operations.
When asked about the number of staff to be rehired, Isla said the airline was assessing its operations. “We cannot give you the details at this point. Right now, we are looking at a workforce that is sufficient to our aircraft and our destinations,” he said.
Ray Berja, chief financial officer of AirAsia Philippines, said the company was expecting to get back around 15 percent of its pre-COVID capacity by end of the year.
“By first quarter next year, we opt to achieve 90-percent pre-COVID domestic capacity. During the summer, hopefully we can achieve 104 percent pre-COVID because we will open new domestic destinations towards the second quarter of next year,” he said.
AirAsia Philippines mounts daily flights from Manila to Boracay, Cebu and Tacloban. The airline will continue to fly to Iloilo (4 times weekly), Davao, Bohol and Zamboanga (3 times weekly), Puerto Princesa, Bacolod and General Santos City (twice weekly) on schedule.
AirAsia said that since the easing of travel restrictions in September, the airline’s load factor continued to increase. AirAsia’s average load factor reached 73 percent in the first half of October. Top destinations include Bacolod, Bohol, Cebu and Boracay.
Seats sold from Aug. 16 Oct. 14 for Boracay increased by 173 percent from July to mid-August. The Boracay route was followed by Bohol which registered 137-percent growth and Cebu with 68-percent increase.
“The noticeable increase in seats sold and our healthy load factor shows that we are ending 2021 with a very strong path to recovery. Due to strong pent-up demand, we are confident that the increased flight frequency will support our guests’ clamor to fly again and reconnect with their families in the provinces,” AirAsia spokesperson Steve Dailisan said.
The budget airline also plans to start flights between Manila and Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand by December.