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Airlines critical during ‘new normal’

After ‘community quarantine’, the next buzz phrase is ‘new normal’. Many believe the new classification ‘general community quarantine’ will be the new normal for Filipinos.

Apart from tourism, the next hardest hit by the pandemic is the travel sector including the aviation industry.

All airlines around the world are affected – no one’s exempted, even Cebu Pacific. Hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues are being lost due to the slump in passenger travel as a result of travel restrictions all over the globe, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 

No one’s even travelling as a tourist. The IATA said for every worker in the air transport sector, four other works are affected in allied industries such as tourism.

The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines predicted that air fares will probably increase by 50% should commercial flights resume. The road to recovery for airlines will be long and hard.

The new normal for airlines is reducing the number of seats inside the airplanes for purposes of social distancing. The usually dreaded middle seat in economy will be gone. Fewer seats means the fares must go up to recover cost.

IATA further suggests for governments – with mention of the Philippines – to help support their local airlines in the recovery phase. This is addressed both to government-owned and private carriers. They all need government subsidy to stay afloat. 

Air transport will be critical in the post-lockdown era. Airplanes will be needed to transport the soon-to-be-discovered vaccine, as well as medical personnel and equipment.

Before tourists will be allowed to board, airplanes will have to fly food and other essential goods across cities and countries.

Just as PAL is doing sweeper flights to ferry home Filipinos from distant points, air carriers will be badly needed to bring cargo and relief wherever needed. 

Inasmuch as Filipinos are pasaway – though second only to Americans who are protesting their lockdown – our country will be in desperate need of foreign assistance when government’s all-out relief efforts run dry because of widespread corruption due to the use of cash doleouts.

Throughout PAL’s storied 79-year history, this pandemic is new. But rising from the ashes it will only if government takes over control and management. But what funds will government use to pump-prime PAL? Foreign airlines will not buy PAL. They are also hard-pressed for cash. So, who’s got the cash? Other tycoons. SMC’s Ramon Ang reportedly said when he relinquished control of PAL back to Lucio Tan that he will be back. Lucio Tan is said to be the most liquid of all the tycoons.

Airlines – as shown in PAL history – serves as a catalyst for nation-building as it did after World War II and after 9-11. Only with airplanes will the recovery be hastened.

Agricultural products and other perishable goods can be flown from the least affected areas to urban centers. Manufactured goods can be flown to other countries to re-start international trade. Medical professionals from the provinces can relieve Metro Manila frontliners. Some factories can be relocated to nearby provinces. Fast and efficient movement of people and cargo is the primordial role of the national flag carrier.

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