Home » Aviation, Breaking News, Exclusives » COVID slashes PH airlines’ 1H cargo volume by 50%

Cargo handled by domestic airlines dove 50% year-on-year in the first half of 2020 as volumes plunged by a whopping 87% in the second quarter due to cancellation of flights amid travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

Air cargo handled by local airlines declined to 75.483 million kilograms (kg) in the first half of the year from 151.249 million kg in the same period last year, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed.

Volumes fell 15.8% in the first quarter to 66.002 million kg from 78.373 million kg in the same quarter last year. In the second quarter, volume plummeted by 87% to only 9.481 million kg from 72.876 million kg in the same period last year.

Airlines began suspending their domestic and international flights mid-March this year as travel restrictions were imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Only repatriation, sweeper and cargo flights were allowed during the period until June, when restrictions were eased and limited domestic flights were allowed.

Philippine Multimodal Transport and Logistics Association, Inc. president Marilyn Alberto earlier said capacity was depleted due to aircraft grounding and the disappearance of belly capacities in passenger aircraft.

READ: Coopetition an opportunity for multimodal transport operators, says industry exec

She also observed how lack of capacity led to a shift from scheduled flights to charter flights, and to an increase in freighter flights. It also saw the emergence of “preighters,” or passenger aircraft used as freighters.

Alberto noted, however, all these changes meant skyrocketing freight rates, especially with the imbalance in trade lanes as return flights carried almost no cargo. She said the cost of one-way flights became prohibitive.

Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific still carried the biggest air cargo volume during the first half of the year, contributing 44% or 33.384 million kg to the total. This was, however, 52% lower than the 69.993 million kg the airline carried in the first half of last year.

PAL Express (PALEx) also maintained its spot in second, accounting for 23% or 17.197 million kg of the total. This was a decrease of 56% from the 38.792 million kg PALEx airlifted last year.

Its sister carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), remained in third place with 17% or 12.763 million kg, also 46% down from the 23.818 million kg it handled in the first half of 2019.

AirAsia Philippines carried 10% or 7.612 million kg of the total, maintaining its spot in fourth. This was 49% lower than the 14.949 million kg it shipped last year.

Cebgo, on the other hand, posted a 26% increase in cargo traffic to 2.387 million kg from 1.898 million kg last year. The carrier, which accounted for 3.2% of the total, operates its sister airline Cebu Pacific’s dedicated freighter service launched in the second half of last year. Cebu Pacific earlier said it had continued to operate all-cargo flights even during the community quarantine period that started mid-March.

Leisure airline Seair International, which is still in sixth place, accounted for 2% or 1.507 million kg, and registered a 59% increment from the 948,181 kg it handled last year.

Charter airline Island Aviation Corp., which started cargo operations in the third quarter of 2019, climbed from eighth place to seventh with 236,279 kg or 0.3% of the total.

Leisure airline Magnum (Skyjet) Air dropped to eighth place with 0.2% or 176,865 kg of the total. This was a decrease of 58% from the 424,105 kg the airline carried last year.

Astro Air International Inc., now known as Pan Pacific Airlines, started handling cargoes in the second quarter of 2020 and accounted for 0.15% or 110,827 kg of the total.

Boutique airline AirSwift recorded a 68% decline in cargo volume to 107,375 kg from 331,889 kg handled last year.

Posting the biggest drop was charter airline and seaplane operator AirJuan Aviation, Inc., which carried 1,782 kg in the first half, a 98% decrease from the 94,260 kg it carried last year. – Roumina Pablo

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