MIAA says domestic air travel has topped pre-pandemic level

DOMESTIC TRAVEL through Ninoy Aquino International Airport is at between 113% and 115% of pre-pandemic levels, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said.

MIAA Senior Assistant General Manager Bryan Andersen Y. Co said on the sidelines of a media briefing on Wednesday that carriers have weighted their operations towards serve the domestic market because international borders have not yet fully opened or have imposed restrictions that discourage travel.

“I think (domestic passenger traffic is) around 113%-115% already… it has surpassed even pre-pandemic levels. This is because domestic borders were the first to open. Our airlines deployed their aircraft (to favor) domestic operations,” Mr. Co said.

He added that passenger traffic at Manila’s gateway airport is projected to hit 42 million in 2023, still below pre-pandemic levels. It would, however, be well above the 2022 level of close to 31 million.

According to MIAA’s annual report for 2019, the last full year before the pandemic shut down air travel, passenger traffic that year was just over 48 million.

Final totals “will depend on how the other borders will open up. China has been aggressive in opening up, so we are looking at 40-42 million,” Mr. Co said.

Passenger traffic for the first two months of 2023 hit 7.1 million, MIAA said. Aircraft movements for the period — the total of takeoffs and landings — are at 43,782.

For the upcoming Easter holidays, MIAA General Manager Cesar M. Chiong said MIAA is expecting passenger traffic of around 1.2 million starting Saturday. 

“This is actually almost the same as the pre-pandemic levels. At 1.2 million, we average 120,000 passengers a day,” Mr. Chiong said.

“We are looking at a 10-day (peak travel period). But sometimes, we hit 125,000. Yesterday we had about 118,000; sometimes we reach 135,000-140,000 passengers a day,” he added.

Mr. Chiong said that it is possible to hit 140,000 or more passengers at the height of the Easter travel period, “depending on the loads of the airlines but I know that the airlines are preparing for this surge as well,” he said.

Mr. Co said that the expected passenger volume during the Easter break is double the year-earlier level.

“We are going to process around 120,000 to 140,000 passengers per day. I think around April last year, we were just processing half of that. So, at least double of last year,” he said.

Total passenger volume between April 7 and April 19 in 2019 was 1.68 million. Passenger traffic was 935,090 in the same period in 2022.

Travelers during the Easter break were advised to be at the terminals at least three hours before the expected time of departure for international flights, and at least two hours before for domestic flights.

Airlines were also advised to open their check-in counters early if possible, to avoid long queues. — Justine Irish D. Tabile