FLIGHTS operated by airlines in Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, declined by 93% in the first week of April due to lockdowns and border closures, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said.

“The number of flights operated by Asia-Pacific airlines in the first week of April declined by 93% compared to normal levels of traffic established at the beginning of the year,” the AAPA said in a recent statement.

AAPA is a trade association of airlines based in the Asia-Pacific region. Its member airlines include the Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Flag carrier PAL, operated by PAL Holdings, Inc., has recently announced that it will not operate any international routes for the remainder of April 2020, but will continue to consider operating ad hoc special flights to evacuate stranded passengers as well as cargo flights to keep vital supply chains intact across the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region.

AAPA noted that global demand for air cargo decreased by 19% in March compared with the same month last year, but is “holding up relatively well” despite economic uncertainty in many countries as a result of actions taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In February, airlines in the region reported a 3% year-on-year fall in international air cargo demand in freight ton kilometers (FTK) terms.

AAPA Director-General Subhas Menon noted some 50 million individuals who work in travel and tourism within the region have also been affected.

“We recognise and applaud the efforts being made by many governments to offer financial assistance and support to the aviation industry as well as the wider travel and tourism sector,” he added.

Local airlines have appealed for government help, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens their survival.

PAL, Cebu Air, Inc. (Cebu Pacific), Philippines AirAsia, Inc., Air Philippines Corp. (PAL Express), and Cebgo, Inc. have temporarily shut down their passenger operations.

Over 30,000 flights were canceled, affecting nearly five million passengers, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) said.

ACAP noted that airlines are now unable to generate revenues in the next few weeks or even months, while banks have tightened credit lines.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that without government support, up to 50% of global airlines face possible bankruptcy in the coming weeks.

IATA previously estimated revenue losses from the COVID-19 crisis to reach over $250 billion this year. — Arjay L. Balinbin