Carrier group says air travel to pick up as Christmas nears


    Air travel in the Philippines is expected to improve starting next month, the traditional peak season towards Christmas , according to the Air Carrier Association of the Philippines (ACAP).

    Ricky Isla, AirAsia Philippines chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of ACAP expects more flights to resume destinations will open starting next month.

    Isla said at the recent AirAsia virtual economic forum ACAP is optimistic the antigen screening protocol for the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will help revive domestic air transport.

    Last month, the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 approved the use of the antigen screening protocol initially for domestic air travel, but still subject to Department of Health qualification and protocols before its implementation, said Roberto Lim, ACAP executive director and vice chairman.

    Results in the antigen screening will be given after 15 to 20 minutes, so the passenger can take the test before boarding the aircraft and only those who yielded negative results are allowed to board. The tests will be done within the airport complex.

    “We believe that this additional layer of protection is good for the riding public and will bring confidence in domestic air transport,” Lim said.

    ACAP, whose members are AirAsia Philippines, Cebu Pacific and its unit Cebgo as well as Philippines Airlines and its unit PAL Express, have gradually resumed operations starting last June, after more than two months of commercial flights suspension.

    Airline industry losses reached P30 billion in January to June as air passenger traffic significantly declined to 11.3 million, from 30.5 million in the same period last year.

    Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) recent study showed the low incidence of inflight COVID-19 transmission, with an updated tally of published cases.

    Since the start of 2020, there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey (inclusive of confirmed, probable and potential cases).

    Over the same period, some 1.2 billion passengers have traveled.

    “The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while onboard appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, that’s one case for every 27 million travelers. We recognize that this may be an underestimate but even if 90 percent of the cases were un-reported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travelers. We think these figures are extremely reassuring. Furthermore, the vast majority of published cases occurred before the wearing of face coverings inflight became widespread,” said Dr. David Powell, IATA’s medical advisor.

    A recent IATA study found 86 percent of recent travelers felt that the industry’s COVID-19 measures were keeping them safe and were well-implemented.

    Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and CEO said:

    “Nothing is completely risk-free. But with just 44 published cases of potential inflight COVID-19 transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, the risk of contracting the virus on board appears to be in the same category as being struck by lightning.”