Air passenger traffic in the Philippines plummeted 78 percent last year amid the coronavirus pandemic that forced the government to close its borders for several months.
Data from the Civil Aeronautics Board showed total passenger traffic carried by domestic and international airlines reached only 13.12 million in 2020, down from over 60 million in 2019.
International air passenger traffic fell 79.5 percent last year to 6.24 million from 30.52 million in 2019, while domestic passenger traffic decreased 76.7 percent to 6.88 million from 29.53 million.
This reflected the 80.3 percent plunge in Asia-Pacific airlines’ full-year traffic in 2020, which was deeper than the 65.9-percent drop in global passenger traffic based on the report of the International Air Transport Association, which groups the largest airline operators in the world.
“Last year was a catastrophe. There is no other way to describe it. What recovery there was over the Northern hemisphere summer season stalled in autumn and the situation turned dramatically worse over the year-end holiday season, as more severe travel restrictions were imposed in the face of new outbreaks and new strains of COVID-19,” said IATA director-general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.
The crisis forced the airlines around the world to ground most of their flights and trim their work force. In the Philippines, both the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific announced retrenchment programs.
Data showed Cebu Pacific recoded the highest number of passengers carried last year, with 3.14 million domestic passengers, down by 75.9 percent from 13.03 million domestic passengers in 2019.
This was followed by PAL Express with 1.44 million domestic passengers, down by 79.42 percent from 7.01 million domestic passengers. Philippine Airlines carried 401,033 domestic passengers last year, also down from 1.63 million domestic passengers in 2019.
Philippines AirAsia flew 1.38 million domestic passengers in 2020, down from 5.34 million domestic passengers in 2019.
CAB said of the 6.24 million international passengers last year, domestic airlines carried 3.13 million which declined from 16.47 million international passengers in 2019.
Foreign carriers served 3.11 million international passengers last year, also down from 14.05 million international passengers in 2019.
PAL carried the most number of international passengers last year with 1.75 million, down from 7.6 million in 2019. This was followed by Cebu Pacific with 906,665 international passengers; Philippines AirAsia, 381,018 international passengers; and PAL Express, 12,037 international passengers.
The IATA earlier said the airline industry was expected to remain cash-negative throughout 2021. “With governments having tightening border restrictions, 2021 is shaping up to be a much tougher year than previously expected. Our best-case scenario sees airlines burning through $75 billion in cash this year. And it could be as bad as $95 billion,”said de Juniac.
“More emergency relief from governments will be needed. A functioning airline industry can eventually energize the economic recovery from COVID-19. But that won’t happen if there are massive failures before the crisis ends. If governments are unable to open their borders, we will need them to open their wallets with financial relief to keep airlines viable,” he said.