Philippines air travel soars in Q1

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
Philippines air travel soars in Q1
Airplanes are seen at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on May 16, 2023.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Air travel in the Philippines maintained its upward trend in the first quarter, lifted by the recovery of the international market and the consistency of the domestic demand.

According to data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the international passenger volume went up by 83 percent to 6.97 million between January and March from 3.8 million a year ago.

CAB said foreign airlines made up 54 percent of the demand at 3.74 million, while local carriers served the other half at 3.22 million.

Among domestic players, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) sustained its mastery of the international segment, flying 1.45 million travelers during the period. However, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is closing the gap with PAL, serving 1.37 million passengers in its network.

Before 2023 ended, Cebu Pacific started offering Manila flights to Da Nang, allowing it to cover all corners of Vietnam, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.

PAL, for its part, is leaning on its US routes to maintain leadership in the international market.

In October, PAL will mount direct flights between Manila and Seattle, opening its sixth route to the US and its eighth destination in North America.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific, together with its regional subsidiary Cebgo Inc., is keeping a tight grip on domestic demand.

CAB reported that the domestic passenger traffic grew by five percent to 7.44 million in the first quarter, from 7.06 million a year ago, boosted by Filipinos’ commitment to fly local.

Cebu Pacific flew more than half of the local market at 3.83 million, as the airline boasts of the widest domestic reach. PAL landed at second, flying 2.21 million travelers followed by AirAsia, accounting for 1.24 million guests.

Apart from commercial airlines, the strength of the domestic demand is helping boutique carriers regain footing. Small-scale airline AirSwift Transport Inc. flew 139,279 passengers, followed by Sunlight Air’s 28,095, Island Aviation Corp.’s 3,608 and Royal Air Charter Service Inc.’s 739.

In 2023, the domestic passenger volume reached 28.97 million, almost touching the pre-pandemic high of 29.54 million.

In comparison, the international passenger traffic rose to 24.81 million, but was far from hitting the 2019 base of 30.53 million.

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