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Phl int’l passenger traffic hits 12.5 M in Jan-Sept

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) reported yesterday that international passenger traffic in the Philippines reached 12.53 million in the first nine months of the year with national flag carrier Philippine Airlines servicing more than a fourth.

Data from the CAB showed that domestic carriers flew 5.63 million passengers while foreign airlines serviced 6.9 million from January to September this year.

The robust international passenger traffic could be traced to the cheap fares offered by low cost carriers led by Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific), AirAsia, Zest Airways, among others.

PAL, a joint venture between taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), flew 3.07 million international passengers from January to September this year.

PAL is in the midst of a major re-fleeting program aimed at acquiring at least 100 aircraft after SMC led by president Ramon S. Ang injected $500 million worth of fresh equity into the national flag carrier.

It has so far inked a $10-billion contract to acquire 65 Airbus aircraft and is planning to put up a new international airport to address the congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

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Cebu Pacific of businessman John Gokongwei flew 2.03 million passengers in the first nine months of the year.

Zest Airways of Amb. Alfredo Yao, formerly Asian Spirit, serviced 223,010 international passengers in the first nine months of the year while Tiger Airline’s Southeast Asian Airlines flew 205,649 during the period.

Air Philippines, a unit of PAL, serviced 104,820 international passengers in the first nine months of the year.

Of the 50 carriers with authority to fly in and out of the country, only 45 airlines operated during the nine-month period.

Air Nauru, Aeroflot, and Vietnam Airlines, British Airways ceased flying to the Philippines in 2001 followed by Swissair, Egyptair, Air France merged with KLM, and P.T. Bouraq in 2004. Lufthansa ceased operations in 2008, while Spirit de Manila has stopped operations since June 2011.

Fueled by cheap air fares, data from CAB showed that international passenger traffic flow in the Philippines went up by 9.7 percent to 15.67 million last year from 14.28 million in 2010.

PAL registered the highest number of international passenger flown with 3.9 million last year followed by Cebu Pacific with 2.46 million, Zest Airways with 223,010, Seair with 210,670, and Airphil with 151,051.

Foreign airlines include Cathay Pacific, Delta/Northwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Emirates Air, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Qatar Airways, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, Jetstar Asia Airways, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported a continued slowdown in the rate of global traffic growth with the Asia Pacific region including the Philippine registering a decline in the international passenger market.

Data released by IATA showed a 4.1-percent rise in the demand for passenger traffic and 0.6 percent increase for air cargo. The growth trend in air travel started to flatten in the second quarter, with no growth in the passenger market between April and August. The year-on-year comparisons are now also starting to show slower rates of growth.

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