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Philippine Airlines names owner's son-in-law as president

Flag carrier could benefit from border reopening, but high fuel costs pose challenge

Stanley Ng, a pilot, has been named as Philippines Airlines president and chief operating officer. (Photo courtesy from the company)

MANILA -- Philippine Airlines on Monday named Stanley Ng, a pilot and son-in-law of the company's billionaire owner Lucio Tan, as its acting president and chief operating officer.

The 42-year-old replaces Gilbert Santa Maria who is stepping down just two and a half years into the job. The outsourcing veteran steered the carrier during the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy process in the U.S., which was completed in December.

Ng is the first pilot to assume the Philippine Airlines presidency since the early 1960s. He started in the company's ground staff in 2003, began flying in 2008 and was the airline's senior vice president for operations until his new appointment. He is the husband of Tan's daughter Lilybeth.

Ng is taking over a leaner airline after the bankruptcy process that saw $2 billion of its liabilities forgiven, 25% of its fleet cut and roughly a third of its workforce slashed.

But Ng inherits the daunting mission of reviving the Philippines' flag carrier, which had been struggling with losses even before the pandemic.

April Lee-Tan, head of research at COL Financial, said Philippine Airlines could benefit when countries start to reopen their borders. The Philippines, for instance, is set to welcome fully vaccinated foreign tourists starting Feb. 10.

But soaring fuel costs will be a headwind for the carrier. "We do have high oil prices as another challenge," Lee-Tan said.

Ng's appointment is the latest in a series of leadership changes over the last three years at the airline, which is partly owned by Japan's ANA Holdings.

Prior to Santa Maria's appointment in July 2019, Tan and his daughter Vivienne briefly took charge after the abrupt retirement of Jaime Bautista, the airline's longtime president and Tan associate.

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