MANILA - New restrictions imposed to arrest the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases have disrupted the recovery momentum of the air transport segment, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) said Friday.
The domestic airline industry was on its way to operate up to 20 percent of flights from pre-pandemic levels before the new lockdown was implemented in late March, said ACAP vice chairperson and executive director Roberto Lim.
Currently, local airlines operate just 10 to 12 percent of their flights from pre-pandemic levels, Lim told Teleradyo.
Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan were placed under enhanced community quarantine in late March following a surge in daily confirmed cases. The quarantine level in this region, the so-called NCR Plus, has shifted to modified ECQ, which will remain in effect until May 14. On Friday, Ifugao was added to the list of areas under MECQ.
"Medyo nanghihingalo pa rin... nung binalik ang MECQ, naputol ang momentum na dumami ang lipad, dumami ang pasahero na tumutungo sa mga domestic destination," Lim said.
(Airlines are still struggling... when the MECQ was reimposed, it disrupted the momentum of flights, when the passenger count was increasing, going to domestic destinations.)
The local airlines are estimated to have "easily" lost about P60 billion since the pandemic started until December 2020, Lim said.
A successful vaccination drive could bring back passenger confidence and in turn, stimulate demand, he added.
Lim also urged the government to guarantee loans from private banks to give carriers access to more cash.
Airlines have had to implement some painful cost-cutting measures such as retrenchment as well as other efforts to mitigate the pandemic impact to stay afloat.
Despite the slump, carriers across the globe, including the Philippine Airlines, have been testing the use of a global digital pass to consolidate travel requirements for ease in transport when flights return to normal.
While flights remain low, domestic carrier participate in the government's vaccination drive by transporting vaccines across the Philippines.