MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Philippine Airlines (PR) was founded in 1941 as Philippine Air Lines. The flag carrier changed to its current name in 1970.

The airline is the first and oldest commercial carrier in Asia operating under its original name. It is headquartered at the PNB Financial Center in Pasay.

Philippines Airlines RP-C3507 Airbus A350-941. Photo: Simon Gloyn-Cox/Airways

Airline Foundation


Philippine Air Lines, Inc. was officially incorporated on February 26, 1941, by a group of businessmen led by Andrés Soriano, Sr. He was hailed at the time as one of the leading industrialists in the Philippines and served as the general manager of the airline. The Philippine Aerial Taxi Company, Inc. franchise was purchased by Soriano and former Senator Ramón J. Fernández and renamed Philippine Air Lines.

On March 15, 1941, the airline made its first flight with a single Beechcraft Model 18 NPC-54 on a regular service between Manila (from Nielson Field) and Baguio. On its maiden flight, it carried two pilots and five passengers.

The five passengers were the founders of the airline – Soriano, Fernández, Juan Miguel Elizalde, John R. Schultz and Ernesto Von Kaufmann. Six months after the airline’s maiden flight, government-backed investment paved the way for PR’s nationalization.

Philippine Airlines RP-C3507 Airbus A350-941. Photo: Michal Mendyk/Airways

Financial Crisis


Formerly one of the largest Asian airlines, due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, PR was forced to downsize its international operations in what became one of the Philippines’ greatest corporate failures. At the time, the flag carrier had to completely cut flights to Europe and the Middle East and nearly all domestic flights except routes operated out of MNL.

In addition, PR had to decrease its fleet size and lay off thousands of employees. As a result of the crisis the airline was placed under receivership a year later, and operations were eventually restored to several destinations. Following PR’s departure from receivership in 2007, PR embarked on periodic management revamps.

Philippine Airlines monopolized the country’s air travel industry for more than 20 years. This ended in 1995 with the passing of Executive Order No. 219, allowing new airlines to join the industry.

Philippine Airlines RP-C8786 Airbus A330-343. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

Operations and Fleet

As of February 2021, PR served 32 domestic destinations in the Philippines and 44 overseas destinations in 23 countries in Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, North America, and Europe, from its hubs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila, Clark International Airport (CRK) in Angeles, Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) in Cebu, and Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO) in Davao. 

The carrier operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, with the Airbus A320, Airbus A321, Airbus A321neo, Airbus A330, Airbus A350, and Boeing 777-300ER in operations.

Philippine Airlines is owned by PAL Holdings, a holding company responsible for the airline’s operations. PAL Holdings is in turn part of a group of companies owned by business tycoon Lucio Tan. ANA Holdings, the holding company of All Nippon Airways (NH), has a 9.5% stake in PAL Holdings.


Featured image: Philippine Airlines RP-C778. Boeing 777-3F6(ER). Photo: Luca Flores/airways. Article sources: philippineairlines.com, “Philippine Airlines.” Pacific Asia Travel Association, flightconnections.com