Air travel shows signs of recovery

Air travel shows signs of recovery

MANILA, Philippines — Passenger traffic at the once-crowded Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s main international gateway, is showing signs of recovery, but appears to be far from returning to pre-pandemic levels.

NAIA got busier than usual last July as a total of 661,412 travelers passed through the airport, the highest passenger traffic since April 2020, data provided by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to The STAR showed.

The airport’s passenger traffic, which includes both arriving and departing passengers, breached the 600,000 monthly mark last June, the first time it was able to do so since the pandemic started decimating travel demand in the second quarter of last year.

From January to August, NAIA accommodated a total of 4.13 million passengers, comprising of 1.327 million international passengers and 2.8 million domestic passengers.

The number, however, is still far from reaching the traffic levels the airport was used to having prior to the onslaught of the pandemic.

In 2019, a total of 48.10 million passengers used NAIA, with international passengers accounting for 25 million and domestic passengers at 22.91 million.

With the travel and tourism industry booming, NAIA passenger traffic has been increasing at an average of seven percent annually from 2015 to 2019. It then took a massive plunge last year with the COVID-19 pandemic unleashing its wrath on the aviation industry.

With the government imposing quarantine measures in Metro Manila in mid-March last year to prevent further spread of COVID, passenger traffic at NAIA plummeted to just 54,818 in April 2020, followed by a measly 45,844 the following month.

From April to December last year, the total number of travelers that passed through NAIA stood at only 2.512 million. In that nine-month period, the highest monthly passenger count was registered in December at 554,250.

Aviation think tank CAPA-Center for Aviation last year said that while much is made of the disastrous impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the airline sector, the airports have been suffering as well.

But amid the challenges, the Department of Transportation and the MIAA inaugurated and commissioned the repair and overlay of the airport’s Runway 13/31 last February as part of the government’s rehabilitation plan.

Completed in the repair and overlay of Runway 13/31 were the interconnecting taxiways, as well as the 13/31 extension, which also includes the repair of deteriorated asphalt pavement areas, asphalt overlaying works, painting of pavement markers and guidelines, and other related works for aircraft safe landing and take-off, among others.

The completion of the preliminary improvements increased NAIA’s maximum allowable commercial flight movement capacity to 10 more flight movements per hour or a total of 240 commercial flight movements per day.