MANILA – Domestic air travel contracted for the first time in nearly a decade mostly because of a series of natural and man-made calamities.
Data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) show that the number of domestic passengers fell by 1.1 percent to 20.3 million last year from 20.6 million in 2012. This was the first time since 2004 that domestic passenger traffic contracted, with the decline happening amid local airlines’ capacity expansion.
In the previous eight years, the domestic market had been growing by double digits.
The drop in domestic air traffic was in contrast to the 3.5 percent increase in international passengers to 17.34 million in 2013 from 16.74 million the previous year.
Porvenir Porciuncula, deputy executive director of CAB, blamed the decline in domestic traffic on a series of typhoons, the earthquake in Central Visayas and the short-lived attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City.
“The traffic has been affected by a series of calamities and the Zamboanga siege,” Porciuncula said, adding that the tourist cancellations in the Visayas also dampened international traffic.
For 2014, Porciuncula expects domestic and international traffic to return to their previous growth path, as foreign tourists rebook their cancelled flights.
Cebu Pacific remains the country’s leading domestic carrier, with 10.2 million passengers, up eight percent from 9.5 million in 2012. The Gokongwei-led budget carrier also enjoyed a 3.4 percent increase in international passengers at 2.82 million from 2.73 million the previous year.
“It is an exciting time for Cebu Pacific and the Philippine aviation industry as a whole. These results show that there is indeed room for growth in the industry and we look forward to working closely with the government on initiatives aimed at realizing the Philippines’ full tourism and trade potential,” Jorenz Tanada, spokesperson of Cebu Pacific said.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) flew 2.584 million passengers, down by 36 percent from 4.1 million in 2012. In August last year, PAL transferred almost all its domestic flights to PAL Express, except those for Cebu, Davao, and Kalibo.
The flag carrier’s international passenger traffic climbed five percent to 4.15 million from 3.95 million in 2012.
PAL Express flew 4.35 million domestic passengers, lower than the 4.44 million in 2012. Likewise, its international passengers decreased by 36.2 percent to 115,959 last year from 181,844 in 2012.
Air Asia Inc, which stopped operations in Clark, recorded 157,327 domestic passengers in 2013, a 0.8 percent increase from 158,519 the previous year.
The local unit of the Malaysian airline carried 215,229 international passengers from 110,920 in 2012.
Air Asia Zest’s domestic passenger count fell by 3.5 percent to 1.99 million in 2013 from 2.06 million in 2012. To recall, the airline was suspended for four days by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines due to safety concerns.
Air Asia Zest however enjoyed a 94 percent increase in international passengers to 617,188 last year from 324,237 passengers in 2012.
Tigerair Philippines recorded a 205.3 percent increase in the number of domestic passengers at 969,753 last year compared with 317,897 in 2012.
Tigerair Philippines’ international passenger count dropped by 5.1 percent to 270,344 last year from 284,959 international in 2012.
Foreign carriers reported a 0.32 percent drop in passengers to 9.13 million last year from 9.16 million in 2012.
Data from the Department of Tourism show that the foreign tourist arrivals rose by 9.56 percent to 4.68 million in 2013 from 4.27 million in 2012.
Source: Darwin G. Amojelar, InterAksyon.com