MANILA, Philippines — The international air travel market in the Philippines is entering the recovery period, although it has yet to climb back to how it was prior to the pandemic.

Based on data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), international passenger traffic reached 14.53 million in the nine months to September, already exceeding the 9.83 million total in 2022.

CAB said foreign carriers ferried the bulk of the volume at 7.83 million, while domestic airlines accounted for the remainder of the traffic at 6.7 million.

Among local operators, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) flew the most number of guests at 4.1 million, followed by Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific at 1.74 million. AirAsia Philippines served 798,853 travelers while Royal Air Philippines ferried 60,589.

However, the Philippines has a long way to go before it returns to the pre-pandemic level of foreign travel. In 2019, the country posted an all-time-high international passenger traffic of 30.53 million, a feat that was erased in just a year with the spread of COVID.

Nevertheless, the Philippines is regaining its growth momentum now that border limits are lifted, as airlines are reactivating most of their flights back to Manila.

Similarly, CAB said the domestic passenger volume has grown to 21.85 million as of September, almost reaching the 22.5 million total last year.

Broken down, Cebu Pacific, along with its regional unit Cebgo, is still the airline to beat for flying domestic, accounting for 52 percent of the volume at 11.36 million.

PAL, helped by its low-cost option PAL Express, accounted for 29 percent of the traffic at 6.44 million, while AirAsia Philippines served 17 percent of the demand at 3.65 million. Several local passengers also flew with boutique operators: AirSwift Transport (265,168); Royal Air (83,970); Sunlight Air (43,080)s and Island Aviation Inc. (7,018).

The country’s largest airlines are betting big on the recovery of air travel locally and abroad. Cebu Pacific, for one, is expanding its fleet to 76 aircraft and network to 60 destinations by yearend.

PAL, for its part, maintains the widest presence globally among Philippine carriers, as it reaches 39 destinations abroad with flights to Asia, Australia, Middle East and North America.

PAL seeks to fly a total of 14.5 million passengers this year, while Cebu Pacific hopes to return to, if not surpass, its pre-pandemic high of 22.8 million.

2023-11-20T16:37:25Z dg43tfdfdgfd