AIRLINES WEEP, SEEK FUNDS FROM FINANCIALLY SHAKEN DUTERTE GOV’T
Airlines operating in the Philippines called for swifter and more aggressive government support as a stilted restart to flights this month has done little to bring in much-needed revenue as Philippine Airlines, Inc., Cebu Air, Inc. and the local unit of AirAsia Group Bhd have only been able to fly between 10% and 15% of their flight schedules despite pent-up demand among stranded travelers and returning migrant workers, company officials said.
Lingering concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak have kept half of regional airports closed, while others have restricted flights to only once a week, Philippines AirAsia Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Isla said in an interview with Claire Jiao of Bloomberg News. Most of the Philippines’ Covid-19 infections are in the major travel hubs of Metro Manila and Cebu City.
Lengthy and changing local-government approval processes have forced last-minute flight cancellations, while jam-packed quarantine venues in the capital region have led to caps on international arrivals, said Jose Enrique Perez de Tagle, vice president of Philippine Airlines, which has resumed flights to the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Japan.
The International Air Transport Association estimates the Philippines could take a $4.5 billion revenue hit from the pandemic and shed nearly 550,000 jobs this year. The country’s Air Carriers Association is pinning its hopes on Congress passing a 1.3-trillion-peso ($26 billion) stimulus bill by August, which would offer credit guarantees, loan facilities and fee waivers for the airline sector. Providing access to capital is more urgent and less costly than a separate government proposal that would allow state lenders to invest in distressed firms, the group’s vice chairman Roberto Lim said.