Domestic passenger traffic in the first nine months of the year contracted, and was likely caused by such factors as congestion issues at the country main hub, new airline regulations and the armed conflict in Zamboanga last September, the head of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said.
Data from the CAB showed that combined passenger traffic from six domestic carriers hit 15.42 million people, down about half a percent, from January to September 2012.
Data showed that load factor increased to 75 percent during the nine-month period, from 73 percent last year, while cargo volume also increased.
“We are looking into this but the dip was really caused by a variety of factors,” CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said in an interview Friday.
Among the issues cited was the lengthening of scheduled ground times for domestic flights, a new safety requirement ordered by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Under the rule, a minimum 40-minute ground time was imposed, giving pilots and crew more time to rest in between flights, but it also means fewer flights in a given day.
Arcilla likewise noted CAB’s own rules to reduce flights to certain airports not “night-rated.”
The armed conflict in Zamboanga also caused commercial flights there to be suspended for a period, and then there’s the lingering problem of congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“One issue was the conflict in Zamboanga and the turmoil it caused,” Arcilla said.
“Manila is always a factor because it’s a hub for domestic and international services,” he said.
The third quarter is also traditionally slower, given this is the time of the year when the country gets visited by several storms, he noted.
These factors only added to what was expected to be a slower quarter.
Arcilla, nevertheless, expected traffic to pick up in the fourth quarter, because of increased travel from the All Saints and All Souls holidays and the upcoming Christmas season.
Data from the CAB showed that Gokongwei-led budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air led in terms of passengers carried.
The airline carried 7.83 million passengers during the period, versus 6.98 million in the same period last year, for a market share of about 50 percent.
This was followed by Philippine Airlines, which carried 2.09 million, and sister-firm PAL Express, which carried 3.15 million passengers.
Zest Air, which has since been renamed AirAsia Zest, carried 1.51 million during the nine-month period.
SeaAir, which nows operates as TigerAirways Philippines, carried 731,630 passengers while AirAsia Inc. carried 98,269, the CAB data showed.
The total amount of cargo carried during the period was 158.43 million kilograms, up almost 8 percent.
Total international passengers during the period hit 13.05 million. However, comparative data from the CAB was not available.
The largest domestic carrier in terms of international flights was Philippine Airlines, which carried 3 million passengers on its international flights during the nine-month period.