Just days apart, the aviation industry mourns of the passing of two giants of their generations— the industrialist John Gokongwei Jr. of Cebu Pacific and Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. of Philippine Airlines. Gokongwei Jr., 93, died due to old age while Bong Tan Jr. whose athleticism is beyond question, collapsed due to brain herniation at the age of 52.
Tan has just been appointed President of PAL holdings incorporated which sources say, created minor frictions between his half-sister and half-brother who are all directors of the board of the country’s flag carrier. Nonetheless, an avid sportsman, Tan represented his beloved company until the end of his life.
What will happen now for these two airlines?
For Cebu pacific, the elder Gokongwei had already passed the torch to his son, Lance, who have proven to be not just a revelation, but this industry’s maverick airline CEO. Cebu Pacific has grown from a mere ordinary airline into the top spot within a couple of years.
For PAL though, anything is possible and up in the air. Tan replaced Gilbert Sta Maria who stepped down as PAL holdings president but retained his status as president and CEO of the airline. The move, insiders say, created animosities and slightly affected the feelings of Lucio Tan’s other children.
These maneuverings within PAL are meant to secure its stature and position as the country’s flag carrier and no. 1 airline. For several years, PAL’s income has not risen dramatically despite several moves aimed at strengthening its fiscal position. PAL is now slowly puncturing the local airline business, since it already proven and recovered its international flight business.
With Boing Tan’s death, Lucio Tan, who is also in his nineties, may tap his other son, Michael Tan, who is known in the industry as a finance guy. Or it may be that Vivian Tan, daughter of the Taipan, may fill in the vacuum left by Bong Tan Jr.