MANILA - Local airlines are expecting air travel demand to pick up in the coming months, but still expect to absorb significant losses this year, an air industry group said on Wednesday.
Airlines are planning to put up 20 percent more flights in the coming weeks, according to Bobby Lim, vice chairman and executive director of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines.
Despite this, airlines will still be absorbing bigger losses this year compared to last year, Lim said. He noted that prior to the pandemic, airlines were moving 20 million passengers a year.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit the country, this was down to just 5 million last year.
The numbers this year would be even worse, Lim said, because air traffic was still at normal levels in the first quarter of 2020. Air traffic had not even recovered this year before further lockdowns were imposed in March and July.
“With further lockdowns in the middle of the year, twice, we really have only the last quarter to hopefully catch up to somehow mitigate or minimize the losses,” Lim said in an interview with ANC.
From January to August, the number of domestic passengers declined 70 percent compared to 2020, while international passengers were down 41 percent.
“The losses continue to pile, it’s still a sea of red ink. The only way to really offset that is to have more traffic.”
The group said it is hoping that the government relax quarantine restrictions for balikbayans in North America by putting the region under the “green list” or at least “yellow list” which are less restrictive for fully vaccinated people.
Lim meanwhile lauded efforts by the Department of Tourism to create travel bubbles with other countries but said that the vaccination rate in the Philippines needs to go up to assure foreign governments that it’s safe for their citizens to travel here.