Budget carriers drive int’l air traffic growth

By Paolo G. Montecillo

July 12, 2011

The introduction of new overseas flights by local budget carriers drove the growth in international air traffic in the first quarter of the year, recently released government data showed.

The number of international airline passengers flying into and out of the Philippines in January to March grew by 8.8 percent year on year to 3.83 million, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) continued to dominate this market segment with 1 million passengers in the first quarter, 10.3 percent higher than year-ago level.

The Lucio Tan-led carrier was the only airline operating in the Philippines with international passengers of over a million in the three-month period.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific was a far second, carrying 504,174 international guests in the period, up by 4.3 percent over 483,182 passengers in the same quarter of 2010.

The country’s three smaller budget carriers, meanwhile, posted the healthiest gains in the period, owing to the aggressive expansion programs implemented since late last year.

Local airlines Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAir) and PAL sister firm Airphil Express flew 35,509 passengers and 38,940 passengers, respectively, in the first quarter. This was up from none last year.

Recognizing the shift in market preference to flying “no-frills” just to save money, PAL has been slowly shifting most of its international traffic within the Asia-Pacific region to the Airphil Express, the group’s budget unit.

SEAir recently introduced international flights from its hub in Clark Freeport, Pampanga, using jets leased from partner and major shareholder Tiger Airways.

Other airlines have criticized the SEAir-Tiger partnership, saying it violates restrictions in the Constitution against foreign groups gaining interests in key industries such as transportation. Despite calls for the partnership to be declared illegal, the CAB has allowed SEAir to continue operating.

Zest Airways, the budget carrier owned by Zest-O juice drink founder Alfredo Yao, meanwhile, more than doubled its international passengers in the period. The airline carried 39,990 passengers in the three-month period, 161 percent higher than last year’s 15,283.

Earlier this year, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) said the Philippine air travel market would be one of the five fastest-growing areas in the global industry.

No comments:

Post a Comment