For PAL’s Jimmy Bautista, the comfort
and safety of passengers is top priority
By Ma. Glaiza Lee
For Philippine Airlines (PAL) president and chief operating officer Jaime J. Bautista, work hours start even before he steps into his office. He gets up at about 6 a.m., sometimes even earlier, and immediately checks his smartphone whether there has been an incident or an important thing needing his attention while he was asleep. He would pause for some breakfast and spend time with his wife before going to his office.
He would resume his duties as CEO duty while on the road to the PAL head office on D. Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City.
His assistant would report to him of any flight delays and their reason. He would check if the maintenance schedule has been followed, whether there are computer glitches and delivery delays.
Once, there were delays in their morning flights, Jimmy, as he is fondly known in the industry, negotiated with airport authorities to divert the arrival of PAL flights from the US to NAIA 1 instead.
“Most of the delays happening nowadays are caused by traffic congestion at the airports or bad weather condition. We really don’t like delays the same way our passengers hate it. For us, delays mean additional expenses for jet fuel, maintenance and labor. For every minute we stay up in the air due to airport congestion, we spend about $60,” he shared.
Every Monday, he makes it a point to attend the flag raising ceremony. It is his personal rule to always start every working day with a prayer. When he arrives at his table, work continues. There are papers to sign, reports to read and calls to make. Throughout the morning, Bautista meets with different people to make strategic decisions regarding the company, check on the aviation situation, manage complaints from passengers, and give his full attention even to the minute details.
As a CEO, Bautista has to be a Jack-of-all-trades. Aside from managing operations, he also has to be an accountant to check if the financial reports are correct.
He should also be a marketing person and create strategies to market the brand, a human resource manager who could oversee the employees and a tourism person who will get the pulse of the travelers and predict what the next big thing in the travel industry will be.
On not-so-busy days, lunch can be a relaxing time. But most often, it would always be a working lunch, a meeting with various stakeholders. Work continues in the afternoon. He would conduct a careful review of their fleet, destinations, customer experience and reservation system. He would contemplate on ways to improve customer satisfaction and airline services, thinking about what they can introduce to make flights more comfortable for passengers, so that they would choose PAL for their next trip.
“Our passengers, their comfort and safety, are our top priorities. In recent yeas, we made significant changes, including reconfiguring the seats in both business and economy classes to make them more comfortable and have wider legroom. We also embedded on-demand in-flight entertainment on each seat. Now, we equip all our planes with Wi-Fi. Approximately, 95 percent of our passengers bring their gadgets—phones, tablets and laptop—while traveling. People nowadays want to always be connected, sharing their photos on social media apps. Internet connection is very important,” he said.
His weekends are often spent with his family. His greatest investment is in his wife Joji: “I’m really in love with my wife. I would spend every free time I have with her. Until now, we do things together. We play golf. We travel together. We take care of our grandchildren,” shared Bautista, who is a grandfather of two—Joseph and Maria Elena—who were born to his only daughter Jaymee.
He shared that he met his wife Joji while working as an accountant at SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co. (SGV), one of the largest multidisciplinary professional services company in the Philippines. At that time, he had just passed the accountancy board exam. “Joji, my wife, was my classmate in training at SGV. I first saw her in a van, and I became attracted to her even before our training started. One time, since we were newbies, we were ordered to get some supplies in the stockroom. I was ahead of her in the queue, so I told her to go first.
I did it so I would know her name when she signed the logbook,” he fondly recalled. That day when he saw her, Jimmy knew that she was a fine woman, and promised to himself that she would become his wife some day.
But before something could blossom, the two lost communication when he left SGV to join the Lucio Tan Group. However, fate has a way of intervening. He accidentally saw her. He greeted her and asked for her number. After that, he would frequently call her.
He fondly remembered the days he was courting her. “Whenever I would visit her at their home in Cavite, her father would sit not far from us, cleaning his .45-caliber gun.”
Eventually, his pure intentions and love won Joji over. Two years into their relationship, Jimmy proposed. The couple exchanged vows on January 9, 1982 at San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.
An asset to the company
A CEO’s job is quite challenging in that it requires spending long hours slaving behind a desk and attending meetings. But for Bautista, his family will always come first, just next to career: “When I was in my 20s, my primary goal was not to become a good businessman.
Yes, I wanted to be successful, but in my heart, to have a good family was my goal. My family will always be my priority. Now that I have reached the top, I can enjoy my family even more. I always tell young people that they have to value their family more than their career. What will you do with your success, with your money, if you don’t have a good family to celebrate with?”
While the self-confessed family guy puts a premium on family, he is not one to slack off in his work. Tan, one of the country’s top honchos, personally asked the PAL concurrent president to return to the flag carrier after his graceful exit from San Miguel Corporation. And that says a lot about his work ethics.
Bautista has had a long history working with the Tan conglomerate. He first joined the company when he was just 23, and rose through the ranks as an assistant to the vice president of the corporate planning during the time when El Kapitan was busy expanding his business interests, from banking to tobacco, brewery, agriculture, construction and hotel, among others.
Because of his dedication and integrity, the taipan saw him to be an asset. After getting involved with diversification and acquisition of new companies, he joined PAL in 1992, after Tan invested in the flag carrier and went public as majority shareholder. After two years, he was promoted as COO, and eventually served as president in 2004.
Business and leisure
After eight years, he ventured out and explored other opportunities. But when Tan’s call came, he decided to come home to the flag carrier: “I believe that Mr. Tan trusts me because I live by the principles of honesty, integrity and efficiency. My personal interests don’t clash with my interest for the company.”
Working at PAL, Bautista gets to travel, but mostly for work. One day, he would be in Europe attending a forum on aviation, and the next day he could be back in the Philippines managing the company, or be in other parts of the world meeting stakeholders.
“I travel for business and pleasure. When I need to attend a convention abroad, I would extend my trip, bringing my wife with me, and have some vacation time. When I travel, it is always with my wife. When I retire, I want to travel the world with my wife. I want to play golf with my wife in different parts of the world. I do have a bucket list of places I want to explore. I want to explore Machu Picchu, see the aurora borealis. I’ve never been to South Africa and Galapagos. I want to experience Antarctica.”