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Flying during pandemic more expensive for airlines, passengers

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star
Flying during pandemic more expensive for airlines, passengers
AirAsia Philippines told The STAR in an e-mail interview that the average cost for a one-way trip has increased by eight percent compared to the pre-pandemic setup, attributed primarily to the ground handling cost, which is dependent on the flight frequency.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Flying in the time of COVID-19 has made both airlines and passengers spend more, with travelers dealing with the cost of testing and airlines shelling out more money for ground handling cost and health protocols.

AirAsia Philippines told The STAR in an e-mail interview that the  average cost for a one-way trip has increased by eight percent compared to the pre-pandemic setup, attributed primarily to the ground handling cost, which is dependent on the flight frequency.

“Slow recovery based on demand due to unstable market conditions and different travel and flight frequency restrictions of destinations affect the frequency planning and cost handling on the operations side,” the low-cost carrier said.

COVID-related health requirements for each flight have also brought additional costs for airlines.

AirAsia Philippines said the swab test requirement for cabin crew alone costs an average of P12,000 per flight.

The carrier said some P20,000 is also being spent daily for disposable protective gear for its crew.

“One thing standard for all the flights that we operate are the disposable protective gear that our crew wear. These comprise a face mask, face shield, latex gloves, disposable gown and disposable apron,” AirAsia Philippines said.

But even though there are additional costs in operational requirements, AirAsia Philippines said it is able to offset these through several cost saving initiatives, thus preventing any increase in ticket prices.

“Internally, the cost savings initiatives have helped the company save on operational costs without sacrificing the quality of the service and without resulting in an increase in fare prices,” it said.

This is good news for passengers, who are already dealing with the additional cost of COVID-19 tests in order to fly.

Air Carriers Association of the Philippines executive director and vice chairman Roberto Lim earlier told The STAR that a government subsidy, either from the national or local government, for the PCR test would help ensure that demand would not be dampened by concerns on high testing costs.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s  recent traveler survey showed that 86 percent of respondents are willing to get tested.

However, 70 percent believe that the cost of testing is a significant barrier to travel, while 78 percent believe the governments should bear the cost of mandatory testing.

“Our latest survey confirms that the high cost of testing will bear heavily on the shape of the travel recovery. It makes little sense for governments to take steps to reopen borders if those steps make the cost of travel prohibitive to most people. We need a restart that is affordable for all,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said.

IATA has called on governments to take action to address the high cost of COVID tests in many jurisdictions, and urged flexibility in permitting the use of cost-effective antigen tests as an alternative to more expensive PCR tests.

COVID-19
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