ACAP member-airlines ready to resume passenger flight

MEMBER-airlines of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) are ready to resume passenger commercial flights, with precautionary measures in place against bio-security risks.

ACAP—comprised of members Cebu Pacific, Cebgo, Philippine Airlines and PAL Express, among othes, have been preparing for flights under ‘new normal’ conditions once the national and local governments ease travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

“The aviation industry has always been held to a higher standard for safety and risk management versus other forms of mass transportation, and as such, processes and procedures that uphold the welfare and safety of passengers and personnel have been put in place to prevent the risk of infection from viruses and other contaminants,” said Roberto  Lim, Executive Director and Vice Chairman of ACAP.

“While details may vary among individual members of ACAP, the new normal for flights will include minimized contact between passengers and the airline staff, increased utilization of online and digital processes for check-in and boarding, intensify,” Lim added.

He said that measures undertaken by ACAP members adhere to the safety protocols set by the Department of Health and Department of Transportation, as well as globally accepted standards set by the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and the World Health Organization.

On top of changes in processes and procedures to intensify bio-security preventive measures, ACAP-members also use aircraft equipped with either an Environment Control System that continuously infuses fresh air across the cabin, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters that traps viruses, bacteria and other contaminants with 99.99 percent efficiency—the same technology used in operating rooms of major tertiary hospitals.

ACAP has also been working with government agencies on implementing other measures which include allowing only passengers with confirmed flights to enter the airport as well as temperature checks and mandatory use of face masks for everyone entering the terminal building.

While ready to resume flights, ACAP reiterated its appeal for government support for member-airlines to sustainably operate given the catastrophic impact of the Coronavirus Disease pandemic on the aviation industry. ACAP has been appealing for assistance under the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) via long term credit facility, working capital credit lines, credit guarantee arrangements, and temporary relief from navigational and airport charges.

“To be clear, we are not asking for a bail-out or dole-out from government. What we are asking for is a hand-up to help airlines recover. The liquidity problems faced by the Philippine aviation industry are very similar to the challenges that airlines all over the world are dealing with. Airlines all over the world are already in talks with their respective governments for relief packages and inclusion in stimuli programs, many of which have already been granted,” Lim added.

The broader Philippine aviation industry is composed of airlines as well as catering companies, food-related enterprises, manufacturing firms, manpower agencies, and other allied and support service providers—majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The entire industry generates over 543,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The aviation industry is also intertwined with the travel and tourism industry, as well as with the logistics industry that connects the Philippine archipelago to the rest of the world. These industries are labor-intensive and key drivers of the economy, encapsulating up to 5.4 million Filipino jobs.

“Air transport has facilitated the growth of the tourism and services industry by providing new and efficient ways of movement for people, goods and business. The connectivity established by airlines has boosted inter-island trade and commerce and the businesses of hotels, restaurants, and tourism enterprises—all of which are sectors that provide millions of jobs. The decrease in air transport activity does not only threaten airlines but also the local communities dependent on tourism.”

ACAP members have continued to support government initiatives, even during the quarantine period through sweeper flights to ferry stranded passengers and cargo services to expedite delivery of much-needed goods—including medicines and personal protective equipment across the country.