MANILA, Philippines – Air passenger traffic rose to 21.73 million in the first half of 2014, attributed to the continued increase in the number of foreign and domestic tourists, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) reported.
Volume of airline passengers grew by 9.5% from January to June this year compared to 19.84 million in the same period in 2013.
Domestic airline passengers surged 15.32% to 12.42 million in the first half of 2014 from 10.77 million in the same period last year.
Foreign passengers inched up by 2.6% to 9.31 million from 9.07 million, CAB reported.
Air traffic in the Philippines has been recovering from flat growth last year amid the reforms being implemented by the Aquino administration, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said.
Air traffic in the country has been growing by double-digit levels since 2005, except for 2013, Arcilla said.
“We are reaping the benefits of the deregulated policy adopted by the Aquino administration,” Arcilla said.
Budget airline Cebu Air Inc (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John Gokongwei dominated the domestic market after flying 5.82 million passengers in the first half of the year.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express came second with 2.77 million, national flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc with 1.98 million, AirAsia Zest with 1.06 million, and Tiger Airways Philippines with 575,093.
PAL, which used to be jointly owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC), dominated the international market after flying 2.5 million passengers from January to June this year.
Cebu Pacific came second with 1.62 million, followed by AirAsia Zest with 377,198, Tigerair Philippines with 104,467, and PAL Express with 77,309.
Agreements, projects to boost air traffic growth
Arcilla said there is further room for growth of the country’s air traffic as the Aquino administration is pushing several projects, including the proposed P2.4 billion ($53.92 million*) parallel runway to help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Arcilla added that the proposed runway optimization program could raise the capacity of the country’s main gateway to 50 to 60 events per hour from the current 40 to 42 landings and take-offs per hour.
Likewise, the CAB official said several airports are being expanded and developed in the provinces including the P17.5-billion ($393.17 million) Mactan-Cebu international airport being undertaken by the tandem of Megawide Construction and Bangalore-based GMR Group, and the expansion of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
“There are foreign airlines waiting in the wings,” Arcilla said.
Arcilla also said that the air agreements signed by the Philippines over the past few years led to more tourist arrivals. CAB hopes to conclude agreements with 3 more countries, including Australia, this year.
So far this year, the Philippines concluded air talks with France, Singapore, New Zealand, Myanmar, Canada, Macau,and South Africa. Air talks with Malaysia were called off twice.
Last year, the Philippines signed air agreements with Japan, Macau, Brazil, Australia, Israel, and Italy.
The Aquino administration is pursuing air talks as part of its open skies policy. Under Executive Order No. 29, airports other than NAIA would be opened to more foreign traffic, in line with the target to lure 10 million tourists by 2016.