Domestic air travel sinks 68%

    Added service. PAL passengers departing from Manila may now undergo COVID-19 RT-PCR testing at the Philippine Airlines Learning Center in Ermita, Manila.

    The Philippines’ air passenger volume in the domestic market plummeted to 6.3 million nine months into the year, just 31 percent of the over 20 million passengers recorded in January to September last year, latest data from the Civil Aeronautics Board showed.

    The decline was due to several months of commercial flights suspension to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading.

    The data showed of the total, 5.9 million passengers flew in the first quarter, 118,727 in the second quarter and 329,438 passengers in the third quarter.

    Local airlines’ operations are still below 20 percent of the pre-pandemic levels due to the local restrictions imposed.

    Gokongwei-owned Cebu Pacific and its unit Cebgo remained the country’s leading low-cost carrier with 3.3 million passengers for the period, with the former having served 2.9 million and the latter 360,226 passengers.

    Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its unit PAL Express flew a total of 1.7 million passengers in the nine months, of which 1.3 million passengers took PAL Express and the remaining 344,567 flew via PAL.

    Philippine AirAsia Inc. reported 1.3 million passengers for January to September, of which 1.2 million flew in the first quarter, 26,466 in the second quarter and 60,840 passengers flew in the third quarter.

    The data showed that other local airlines accounted for the following: Air Juan Aviation Inc., 108 passengers; AirSwift Transport Inc., 77,511 passengers; Astro Air International Inc., 80 passengers; Island Aviation Corp., 2,887 passengers; Magnum Air (Skyjet), 41,372 passengers; and Royal Air Charter Service Inc., 751 passengers.

    Earlier, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) asked the government to relax travel restrictions and quarantine requirements to help the aviation sector restart and recover from the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

    AAPA said the health crisis has triggered unimaginable losses for airlines exceeding $84 billion worldwide this year. Asia Pacific airlines will account for more than a third of the losses, or $29 billion.

    Among all regions, the fall in traffic is steepest in Asia Pacific, AAPA said. The state of international air travel is particularly grim, with Asia Pacific airlines currently carrying less than 2 million international passengers per month, compared to 39 million a month in 2019. Seat capacity on international routes has also fallen by 89 percent compared to 2019.

    However, AAPA noted a recovery in domestic travel, with traffic in September reaching 67 percent of what it was a year ago while domestic capacity is already at 80 percent, benefitting from the timely relaxation of internal travel restrictions in some countries.

    Looking ahead to 2021, AAPA said the realistic path to gradually reopening borders could start with pairs of cities where the risk level is similarly low and the risk response equally robust, as recommended by the World Health Organization.