PASSENGERS flown by low-cost airline Philippines AirAsia, Inc. declined by 9% to 1.8 million in the first quarter of the year amid the suspension of its commercial flights due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Philippines AirAsia flew 1.8 million passengers during the quarter, down 9% in comparison to the same quarter last year,” the Malaysia-based AirAsia Group Berhad said in its report e-mailed to reporters on Tuesday.

The group added that the airline’s capacity also reduced by 1% year-on-year “as domestic routes and international routes were halted beginning mid-March 2020.”

The load factor for the first quarter of 2020 was “solid” at 84%, the group said, although it was 7 percentage points lower than the 91% posted during the same period last year.

On the general performance of the AirAsia Group, it said its load factor of 80% for the first quarter was better than its expected 77% “despite the weak travel demand amid increasing and unprecedented travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This was achieved through proactive capacity management, particularly in the months of February and March, with the cuts most notable in AirAsia Malaysia and AirAsia Thailand,” it said further.

The group announced on Monday the new rules that its passengers have to follow when flight operations resume after the government-imposed lockdown period.

It said guests will be required to bring and wear their own masks before, during and after flight. Guests without masks will be denied boarding.

Also, only one piece of cabin baggage not exceeding 5 kilograms will be allowed for each guest.

The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, Inc. has said airlines in the Philippines suffer losses of P7 billion for every month of lockdown apart from their accumulated losses of around P4 billion from travel refunds because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association expects that local airlines will see their passenger revenues drop by $4.481 billion this year. It also expects passenger demand to decline by 47%. — Arjay L. Balinbin