Philippine carrier Cebu Air Inc. expects to bring back its workforce size to before the Covid-19 pandemic by early next year, President and CEO Lance Gokongwei said.

Workers who were laid off due to the pandemic are being prioritized for rehiring, Gokongwei told reporters on Wednesday. There’s enough supply of pilots and cabin crew in the Philippines, unlike in other countries that are experiencing shortages, he said at a media presentation of a grocery delivery platform which he backed.

Cebu Air, the nation’s biggest budget carrier had 4,000 workers before the pandemic. It cut jobs by 25% in 2020, and resumed hiring crew in November after domestic tourism showed signs of a revival as the country eased mobility curbs.

The peso’s slump is expected to drive up the airline’s expenses together with higher fuel prices, Gokongwei said, adding that it will have to balance luring back passengers and adjusting fares to recover rising costs.

Higher consumer prices and rising borrowing cost are among the biggest challenges to businesses, said Gokongwei, whose conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc. also has interests in food, property, petrochemical and banking.