THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) suffered a record 33 percent drop in international passengers in February 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed travel and tourism.

International traffic last month dived to 233,650 passengers from 346,953 recorded in the same month in 2019, according to official data obtained by SunStar Cebu Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

The number of domestic passengers also dipped four percent to 612,193 in February when travel curbs started to escalate.

The declines are expected to persist in March and onwards as travel bans, quarantine measures and declining travel demand have hit the aviation industry hard.

Overall passenger traffic in February 2020 fell 14.35 percent to 845,843 from 987,549 last year.

A worse scenario for passenger growth is seen for this month and next as local airlines suspend their operations to and from Cebu for about a month after the national government imposed an “enhanced community quarantine” in Luzon.

The Cebu Provincial Government is also now restricting entry into the province as efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 speed up.

Local flight cancellations

The MCIA on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, announced that all inbound and outbound domestic flights have been canceled from March 17 to April 20.

Affected foreign guests are advised to get in touch with their respective embassies and consulate offices.

Passengers may also approach MCIA’s passenger service agents deployed at the information desks located at the arrival and departure areas in MCIA Terminals 1 and 2. They may also send a direct message to MCIA’s Facebook page for inquiries.

“Covid-19 has already hurt the global recovery prospects, restricting trade, economic activity and travel,” ING Bank senior economist Nicholas Antonio Mapa.

“Because the virus has spread to other parts of Asia, we can also expect a diminished pace of tourist arrivals from countries that we traditionally depend on like Japan, Korea and the US as global air travel is grounded.”

In February 2020 international air traffic at MCIA went down 12.8 percent.

The months of March and April could further see dismal figures, with flight suspensions leaving the airports empty and passengers canceling travels.

In an official statement, Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei announced the carrier’s suspension of all its domestic and international flights from March 19 to April 14.

“We have had to cancel flights to key international markets, and more recently, majority of our domestic operations due to community quarantines and air travel restrictions,” he said.

Philippine Airlines and Philippines AirAsia have also suspended their operations.

According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines could lose US$63 billion to $113 billion in revenue for passenger traffic globally in 2020.

A Center for Aviation report warned that “most airlines in the world will be bankrupt” by end of May as the travel restrictions weigh big on their revenue growth.