Local airlines are ready to operate under general community quarantine rules, but the 14-day rules of local government units may affect the appetite of domestic tourists to travel.
“There is low travel demand but local carriers want to fly. The challenge is that LGUs have their own rules separate from GCQ status and this needs coordination,” Robert Lim, vice president and executive director of Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, said.
“If you leave Manila and arrive in Puerto Princesa airport, the moment you step out the airport complex the passenger must comply with the local ordinance that subject you to a 14 day quarantine. People would not want to travel that destination,” Lim said.
The national government is expected to lift the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon by May 15.
The Department of Transportation earlier ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, along with other airport authorities, to seriously consider the reopening of airports in areas covered by the GCQ to accommodate commercial aviation operations.
“The reopening of airports in GCQ areas to commercial aviation will gradually jump start airline operations now hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will plant the seeds for domestic tourism. This should seriously be considered,” Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
CAAP Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco said airlines have existing and established air route network within the Visayas and Mindanao, which can be put into operation.
“Some airlines are readily capable of mounting inter island flights to serve communities from one GCQ area to another GCQ area using the inter Visayas and/or Inter Mindanao air routes,” Sydiongco said. The practice is known in the aviation sector as the hub and spoke model.
Using the model, air carriers can use regional airports as an alternative airport hub considering that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Clark International Airport in Pampanga are still under the ECQ and, as such, are closed to regular commercial aviation operations.
Tugade said with the hub and spoke model of operations, commercial airlines with operations normally concentrated in traditional airport hubs such as Manila, Mactan and Clark can now operate in regional airports such as Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, General Santos, Laguindingan, among others, subject to their aircraft compatibility and configuration.