AirAsia is still optimistic about the recovery path of the airline’s Philippine operations, said AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes.

“The good news is most airlines are still alive. That’s impressive. I mean, a few have gone into bankruptcy protection and stuff, but most airlines are still alive. All low-cost carriers in Southeast Asia are still alive,” Fernandes said in an interview with aviation think-tank CAPA–Center for Aviation.

Since last year, the pandemic has had a significant impact on AirAsia Philippines’ operations and finances, as well as those of other local carriers.

However, the company’s road to recovery is expected to begin this year, with passenger traffic expected to increase steadily until 2023.

“We’ve lived through many of these things, and this is the toughest for sure, but we’ll come back stronger,” Fernandes said, adding that, “in a nutshell, Malaysia and Thailand look the strongest, Philippines next, and Indonesia is the weakest. But there’s a silver lining there that we may be able to grow quicker afterwards. “

Revenues of AirAsia Philippines last year fell by 77 percent to P6.33 billion from P27.36 billion in 2019 as a result of travel restrictions.

The airline carried only 2.01 million passengers in 2020, a 77 percent decrease from the 8.55 million passengers flown in 2019.

AirAsia Philippines is targeting to have a fully vaccinated workforce by the fourth quarter in preparation for the strong rebound of air travel.

It expects that those who have direct contact with guests, such as its pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, and ramp agents, will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by next month.

AirAsia Philippines currently operates pure domestic operations, but the company earlier said it intends to resume its international flights by August.