AIRLINES in Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, have been hit the worst by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to Australia-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

“Asia Pacific has been hardest hit, although the rate of seat decline has slowed, mainly reflecting a flattening of the curve of COVID-19 cases in China,” CAPA said in its report published on Saturday.

In the Philippines, the alert level was raised to code red sublevel 2, which means there have been community transmissions and increased infection cases in the country.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has placed the entire island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” until April 12.

The Luzon-wide lockdown policy includes a temporary travel ban on foreigners entering the country starting March 22.

In the Asia-Pacific region, CAPA said seat numbers were down by 25.2% in the week of March 16, 2020.

It said the rate of decline in the region has eased since hitting -29.4% in the week of Feb. 17, 2020, “reflecting the relative flattening of the COVID-19 curve in China, but it is still falling faster than in any other region.”

As for seat capacity between regions, CAPA said the biggest drop in capacity for the week of March 16, 2020 was recorded for North America to Asia Pacific (-36.4% year-on-year), Europe to Asia Pacific (-32.3%), and Asia Pacific to Africa (-23.8%).

“Four other interregional flows have also fallen by more than 10% in seat capacity this week: Europe to Middle East (-17.8%), Asia Pacific to Middle East (-15.8%), Europe to Africa (-11.7%) and Middle East to Africa (-11.2%),” it added.

It said such declines will begin to narrow from the week of March 23, “with the global decline easing back to -4.0% in the last week of April 2020.”

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific projected that the pandemic will continue to impact its operations in the coming months, even after the month-long lockdown being imposed over the entire Luzon island.

The airline has also decided to let go of over 150 newly hired flight attendants.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines has likewise cut about 300 jobs as a way to recover from its 2019 losses, which worsened in the first two months of 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.

The government said it would defer the collection of take-off, landing and parking fees from Philippine carriers as a form of relief from the pandemic. — Arjay L. Balinbin