Local airlines seek consistent, unified policies
Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - August 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After taking a combined P20-billion loss in the second quarter, local airlines are seeking not only government support, but also unified and consistent policies as they continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic.

Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) executive director and vice chairman Roberto Lim told The STAR that passenger traffic for the months of July and August remained low with the recent implementation of a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila disrupting further the restart.

Lim said local airlines are currently flying around 15 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

“We need to have policies that are consistent and unified,” he said.

ACAP,  composed of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines, has been appealing for government support, be it in the form of long term credit facility or working capital credit lines to sustainably operate given the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry.

But aside from such government support, the airlines also want the standardization of requirements and regulations, particularly among local government units (LGUs).

Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmello Arcilla admitted that the situation remains very fluid at the moment.

“There are still a lot of intangibles. The hazard level of LGUs are still different, that is why it varies from time to time,” Arcilla said.

“Our advice to passengers is always communicate with your airlines. Airlines must also be careful and advise their passengers regularly,” he said.

Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and customer experience Candice Iyog earlier said that these varying and shifting LGU rules have slowed down the resumption of budget carrier’s commercial operations.

“We recognize the LGUs’ limitations and capacity to accept depending on their testing capabilities and quarantine facilities,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief of staff Danjun Lucas said.

“So now, 32 (airports) are open for commercial operations, 17 are still waiting for clearance to open. It reached 35 (opened) before, but there were some LGUs which changed their minds like Iloilo and Bacolod, maybe because their quarantine facilities were full,” he said.

For the second quarter, Lim said combined losses of ACAP members have reached around P20 billion.

Local carriers flew around 800,000 passengers during the three-month period as compared to 13.5 million passengers flown in the same period last year. The figure technically covered the month of June only as commercial flights were suspended during the months of April and May.

Last month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) already revised its recovery outlook for global passenger traffic given continuing restrictions in international travel.

IATA said global passenger traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometers, would not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024, a year later than previously projected.

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