The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines expects the recovery of the aviation industry from the COVID-19 pandemic to take two to three years as travel demand remains weak.
“It is generally estimated that it will take two to thee years before the airline industry gets back to 2019 traffic levels which has all but disappeared with the global pandemic,” Robert Lim, vice president and executive director of ACAP, said in a text message.
ACAP members include Philippine Airlines Inc., Air Philippines Corp., Cebgo Inc., Cebu Air Inc. and Philippines Air Asia.
Data from Civil Aeronautics Board showed that domestic passenger volume rose 8 percent to 29.53 million in 2019 from 27.28 million in 2018. Intentional passengers increased 13.6 percent to 30.52 million in 2019 from 27.28 million international passengers in 2018.
Carmelo Arcilla, executive director of CAB, said the outlook for the airline industry was still “quite bleak” because of the health crisis.
Arcilla said there were only 800 flights out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport from June 1 to July 31, down from 47,227 flights in the same period last year.
Lim said passenger travel demand would slowly come back once passengers gained confidence that it is safe to travel.
“Domestic air travel will lead the way and it is important that the LGUs [local government units] adopt a unified and consistent policy and approach aligned with IATF in processing travelers from Manila,” he said.
“Aviation is a catalyst for economic development and it can not play that role if there are too many restrictions to travel even on essential ones like business and non leisure purposes,” Lim said.
An official of Philippine Airlines said the flag carrier was operating 15 percent of its normal number of pre-COVID daily flights.
“If restrictions are further eased by LGUs and foreign governments, flights will increase,” she said.
“But will it revert back to normal levels in the next 12 to 24 months, that remains to be seen,” the PAL executive said.
PAL Holdings reported comprehensive loss of P22.02 billion in the first half, up by 631.56 percent from the P3.01-billion loss in the same period last year.
Ricardo Isla, chief executive of Air Asia Philippines, said the airline was expecting to show significant improvement in the fourth quarter.
“All of our domestic destinations [are] scheduled this August. More international destinations to open by September,” he said.
Air Asia Philippines’ passenger volume reached 29,111 in the second quarter, down from 2.22 million passengers it flew in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific posted a net loss of P9.14 billion in the first half, a reversal of the P7.14-billion a year earlier.