Domestic airline passenger traffic rose by nearly a tenth last year, as lower plane fares encouraged more Filipinos to travel around the country by air, government data released this week showed.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) on Thursday reported that the number of passengers carried by domestic airlines rose by 9.6 percent to 20.57 million people for the whole of 2012—breaching the 20-million mark for the first time in the country’s history.
The growth rate, however, was slower than the 13-percent year-on-year growth booked in 2011.
The expansion in passenger volume came as the number of available seats on flights rose by 16 percent to 28.26 million from 24.34 million in the previous year. This translated to an average load factor for local airlines of 72 percent, worse than the 77 percent in the previous year.
An airline’s average load factor refers to the number of tickets on each flight that the airline is able to sell, relative to the number of seats available.
The Gokongwei family’s Cebu Pacific remained the clear leader in domestic air travel, attracting 9.48 milllion passengers in 2012, up from 8.48 million a year before.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) had 4.1 million passengers in 2012, down from 4.31 million in 2011. This came as PAL continued to transfer more of its domestic operations to sister firm AirPhil Express, which had 4.45 million passengers in 2012, up from 3.7 million the year before.
Like PAL, Zest Airways—owned by juice drink magnate and banker Alfred Yao—posted a decline in passenger volume, carrying 2.06 million people in 2012 from 2.15 million the previous year.
Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAir), now operating as SEAir-Tiger to reflect the recent investment of Singapore’s Tiger Airways in the company, carried 317,897 passengers in 2012 vis-à-vis 124,468 in 2011.
AirAsia (Philippines) Inc., which started operations in 2012, carried 158,519 domestic passengers.
The tourism department this week reported that the number of domestic tourists in 2012 reached 37.5 million, higher than the government’s target of 35.5 million.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said tourism accounted for about 7 percent of the economy last year. Increases in domestic tourists and foreign tourists are expected to boost the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) to 11 percent by 2016.