CEBU

Los Angeles, Doha, Taipei flight launches rescheduled

NEW NORMAL. Local carriers are expected to resume operations in limited capacity flights on May 16, 2020, under a new normal where crew wear protective gear, passengers use digital channels and maintain physical distancing even in the air. Direct flights from Cebu to Los Angeles, Doha (Qatar) and Taipei (Taiwan) are tentatively moved to later months due to the coronavirus scare. (SunStar File Photo)

THE coronavirus crisis, which has badly grounded the aviation industry, has delayed the launch of new international routes from Cebu that were supposed to start from the second quarter of 2020.

The resumption of Philippine Airlines’ Cebu to Los Angeles route has been tentatively postponed to June 2 from the original target May 2 launch, according to aviation data provider Routesonline.

The revival of Qatar Airways’ direct link between Cebu and Doha, Qatar has also been moved to July 1. This service resumption was supposed to start last April 8.

The launch of new routes from Cebu to Taiwan’s capital Taipei by China Airlines and Starlux Airlines has also been postponed to Oct. 1 (from June 12) and July 1 (from April 6), respectively.

All international and domestic flights at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) have been suspended for over a month now until May 15 due to quarantine measures to beat the spread of Covid-19.

However, MCIA remains operational for sweeper flights for stranded passengers and cargo flights.

Local carriers are expected to resume operations in limited capacity flights on May 16, under a new normal where crew wear protective gear, passengers use digital channels and maintain physical distancing even in the air.

But the outlook on the airline industry remains uncertain.

The industry facing a new business environment in post-lockdown era as it’s expected to struggle to get travelers fly back again.

High ticket price

According to International Air Transport Association chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac social distancing measures inside the cabin will force ticket prices higher, otherwise airlines will risk losing “enormous amounts of money,” as the market recovers while the threat of Covid-19 remains.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Thursday, May 1, 2020, they will soon require passengers to cover their faces during flights, following the lead of JetBlue Airways.

The move comes as airlines big and small contemplate how to comply with social-distancing recommendations in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most flights are nearly empty these days—air travel is down 95 percent from a year ago, and the average domestic flight has 17 passengers, according to industry figures.

Beyond masks, several airlines said they are blocking some or all middle seats to create social distancing. That is possible now on most flights but will become more difficult when passengers begin returning in bigger numbers—airlines would forfeit revenue if they block seats then. It is also more difficult on smaller regional jets; passengers might be seated near each other to balance the plane’s load.

Tourism, being one of the major economic drivers in Cebu, is expected to suffer the most, according to Efren Carreon, regional director at the National Economic and Development Authority in Central Visayas.

He estimated around US$40 million in foregone monthly revenue for the tourism industry.

Most businesses in Cebu, including hotels, malls and resorts have been closed since late March when the strict mass quarantine was imposed across the province.

“We expect some contraction in our economy given the disruptions in business activities in the region,” Carreon said. / (with AP)


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