Thursday , June 21, 2018

Flying high with PAL

HARRY D. Inoferio, senior assistant vice president for Philippine sales of Philippine Airlines (PAL), grew up professionally with the company. Born in Maria, Siquijor, Inoferio initially wanted to be a priest, taking his high school seminary studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Dumaguete, and finishing his Bachelor of Philosophy in the San Carlos Seminary in Cebu City. After he got this degree, he tried the world outside the seminary and applied in three companies, PAL being one of them. He got hired, underwent three months of training and has never looked back.

His first job, he said, was as clerk porter. Not in Cebu but in Laoag for six years, where he had to learn Ilocano. Aside from his clerical functions of issuing tickets, accepting cargoes and checking in passengers for their flights, he also cleaned the office, including the comfort room, and sometimes also cleaned the aircraft and physically loaded and unloaded baggage and cargoes from the aircraft.

For the postal system, he had to deliver the brown canvas postal bags within two hours of their arrival, as stipulated in the company contract. He was also assigned to handle the critical function of the aircraft weight and balance. The upside of this multi-tasking job away from family is that it was during part of the Marcos era and so he somehow got to hobnob with the powers that be in the Philippine government.

He tried to get a Master of Business Administration degree but assignments abroad kept him from finishing the course. His posting included the Middle East (Saudi Arabia), head office in Manila for international sales development reporting directly to the vice president for sales, Hong Kong as manager, then back to Manila for international sales and then to Singapore as country manager and on to London on special assignment for the PAL commercial team. With his wealth of experience, he also held special assignments like handling presidential flights.

After 20 years, he retired from PAL but did not retire from the industry. He managed several world-class carriers (one after the other) based in Manila: Delta Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Lauda Air and Austrian Airlines, Hong Kong Express Airways and Hong Kong Airlines, Air Mauritius, and for a time he was vice president for international sales of Cebu Pacific.

After 18 years away from PAL, he was invited by Dr. Lucio Tan to rejoin PAL in 2014 as senior assistant vice president of Philippine Sales and has recently been assigned to Cebu to expand PAL service out of Cebu in the Visayas and Mindanao areas, for domestic and international travel.

The airline industry, said Inoferio, is challenging in itself but it is not enough to focus solely on the company or the industry; one must also be involved in business and civic associations and work in partnership with the local government for certain projects. He has been doing a good job at this and is the first and only Filipino airline executive who held the position of chairman of the International Air Transport Association in Hong Kong for three consecutive years, and he was also president of SKAL in Makati for two consecutive terms. On special assignments, he has not only handled presidential flights and other bigwigs but also the flight of Pope Francis to and from Rome.

Looking back, Inoferio said: “I’m happy to be able to have helped people/customers with their travel needs and to help boost tourism both inbound and outbound. The work has been very challenging and varied. Now we are looking as to how we can develop more destinations and attract people to travel in and out of the country.”

Does he regret not becoming a priest? Not really, perhaps he was not really “called.”

After some years with PAL, he married a Tagala, Marilyn dela Cruz (who has since died), with whom he has four children: Michael, Marlowe, Harriette and Harry Jr. He remains true to his religion, and wears a rosary bracelet on his left wrist.