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Freeman Cebu Business

By yearend MCIA expects 40% of flights to resume

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) expects to end 2022 with a 40 percent resumption of flights as “revenge travel” and the holiday rush pushed stronger demand for connectivity both in domestic and international routes.

According to Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) general manager and chief executive officer (CEO) Julius Neri Jr., flight resumption at the MCIA stood at 28 percent in the last couple of months, the airlines’ stance to reopen or launch new flights to different destinations including international routes would accelerate the recovery target and would end the year with at least 40 percent resumption of the pre-pandemic level.

“We are expecting more arrivals,” said Neri explaining that the influx of arrivals is seen to sustain and will even increase further next year as airlines are ramping up with the flight resumption operations both in the domestic and international connection.

Neri said the comeback of the face-to-face events is a big factor for the tourism and economic restoration, adding that the fast recovery story for tourism in Cebu is also pushed by the fierce decision of Governor Gwen Garcia announcing to open Cebu for business.

Cebu’s message of re-opening has sent a strong interest to local and international airline companies to resume or launch new flights from Cebu.

With the resumption of the face-to-face Sinulog Festival in January 2023, Cebu will expect a surge in arrivals and more direct flight launches.

At present, MCIA has 13 foreign and four Philippine-based airline partners, connecting to 27 domestic destinations and 10 global destinations.

“We are still facing challenges in terms of passenger traffic, especially to and from international destinations,” Neri admitted explaining that Cebu is yet to experience a full recovery, especially in the opening of international direct flights.

However, Neri expressed confidence that Cebu is well on the way to hitting the pre-pandemic levels, and even surpassing expectations due to heightened interest to travel.

Earlier, Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced its aggressive expansion plans to build up more air connectivity from Cebu to more routes here and abroad.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Capt. Stanley K. Ng expressed the  Philippines’ flag carrier’s serious commitment to put more investments in expanding its Cebu hub, opening fresh routes such as Cebu-Baguio, Cebu-Borangan, Cebu-Bangkok, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) region.

PAL’s decision to unlock routes both domestic and overseas which were not available in the past, is not only to capitalize on the “revenge travel” phenomenon but also to help the government in its effort to make tourism one of the country’s economic growth drivers.

Likewise, Cebu Pacific announced that it has restored 92 percent of its pre-pandemic system-wide capacity following the continuous increase of its domestic and international routes.

Cebu Pacific now flies an average of 355 flights a day, covering 34 domestic and 19 international destinations. This is equivalent to about 64,000 seats offered in a day.  

To date, CEB has restored over 100 percent of its pre-pandemic domestic capacity, surpassing the airline’s December 2019 level.    

“Our system-wide capacity is now approaching pre-pandemic levels. We’ve basically grown, in fact, much more than what we were doing pre-COVID at the domestic level. We are seeing green shoots of recovery. It is very encouraging to see more people confidently flying again, not just within the Philippines but even abroad,” said Xander Lao, Chief Commercial Officer at Cebu Pacific.

For December, CEB widened its international footprint as it added more flights to Brunei, Jakarta, Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong.

As of November 14, the Department of Tourism (DOT) recorded about 2,052,421 year-to-date visitor arrivals in the Philippines, with foreign tourists accounting for 73 percent of total arrivals (overseas Filipinos at 27 percent).

The United States was the country’s top source market (19 percent), followed by South Korea (14 percent), and Australia (five percent).

MACTAN-CEBU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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