Dream on

Published March 12, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

Jun Samson, past president of Rotary Club Paseo de Roxas and a travelling footloose, sent me this text: “I dream of the day, when I will walk down the aisle and hear these words: This is your captain speaking…”

We both share the same passion: we relish going on journeys. Compared to PP Jun, I am nowhere near footloose. Though, I have my fair share of travels on an average of five times annually, excluding road trips to the countryside. For budgetary requirements, I need to have it all planned out.

It’s close to a year now that my passport has been stamped. Prior to the declaration of the lockdown, my usual travel mates and I were looking forward to our annual Japan trip.

The rollout of the vaccine is the much-needed stimulus that would extricate us from this pit, economically, mentally and physically, that COVID-19 brought us exactly a year ago.

Travel and tourism are among the two badly bruised sectors of the economy. The negative impact has cascaded to the aviation industry, which, based on facts and figures, is on “code-blue.”

For starters, our very own flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is filing for Chapter 11 and is firing more than 300 employees. Similarly situated are four airlines lining up to file if not altogether filed for bankruptcy.

These are Thai Airways, South African Airways, Eurowings, and Virgin Australia. Operation of Air Maritius is reportedly being taken over by the government through a designated administrator. In aviation parlance it “goes into administration.”

Thai Airways has a fleet size of 61 with 62 destinations and is majority owned by the Thai Ministry of Finance. It was in the red in 2019 with negative revenue of 188,954 million baht.

Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration (conservatorship in local parlance), largely due to the ill-effects of the pandemic last year. English magnate Richard Branson reportedly refused to infuse additional fresh capital to the airline, which has been in financial troubles for several years, even before the pandemic. On 26 June 2020, Bain Capital entered into a sale and implementation deed with administrator Deloitte to purchase the airline company.

Award-winning for its impeccable service Singapore Airlines (SAS) has decided to “return” 14 aircraft. Norwegian Airlines management like-wise decided to halt its “long-haul” operations and returned Boeing dreamliner 787s to the lessons. It’s no longer comfortable to the bottom-line to fly the dream liner.

But, here’s a new twist. Norwegian Airlines is considering entering into a joint venture with SAS to what aviation observers tagged as a strategy to “rebuild a new company.”

 In contrast, the tight economic condition prompted British Airways’ (BA), parent company IAG to “abandon” its plans to take over Air Europa. Rather, BA reportedly swallowed the bitter pill of settlement to a tune of 40 million euros. Aside from ditching the take-over, BA is grounding 34 planes while IAG-Iberia grounded 56.

Emirates, the largest air-line and the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, took the same route of cost-savings by grounding 38 of its wide-body A380. Emirates operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircrafts. It has the distinction of one of the airlines to operate an all-wide-body aircraft fleet. It has a fleet size 255, more than enough to service its 157 destinations.

Etihad also grounded 10 of its A380, 10 Boeing 787 and cancelled 18 orders for A350. Etihad operates over 1,000 flights weekly with a fleet of 102 Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Lufthansa Airlines (Deutsche Lufthansa AG) plans to ground 72 planes in two tranches and grounded 10 B787. Headquartered in Cologne, Lufthansa is the largest German airline and the second largest in Europe.

What will happen to these fleet? Under the current situation, there are reportedly at least 60 new aircraft, including 18 A350s, stored at Airbus head-quarters in Toulouse, France with no apparent buyers.

At the rate the aviation industry is going, it may take long before Jun, you and me, can hear: ”This is your captain speaking…” In the meantime, I just have to dream of the places and sights that are still in my bucket list.

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