By Miguel R. Camus
Local airlines battered by the new coronarvirus (COVID-19) pandemic are raring to take the skies once more.
The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (Acap) said in a statement on Tuesday that member airlines have prepared a host of safety measures as they hope to win back flyers after strict quarantine measures are lifted potentially by the end of this month.
Acap is comprised of the country’s major airline groups: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia Philippines. Regular flights have been grounded since the middle of March to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“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,” Roberto “Bobby” Lim, Acap vice chair and executive director, said in the statement.
Specific measures will vary per airline but he said these will include minimized contact between passengers and airline staff, increased use of online and digital check-in and boarding and intensified cleaning and disinfection of all aircraft and facilities.
Modern aircraft also come equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air filters that capture viruses, bacteria and other contaminants with 99.99 percent efficiency, Acap noted. It said this is the same technology used in operating rooms of major tertiary hospitals.
Lim said they will also follow standards set by the Department of Health, Department of Transportation and the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and the World Health Organization.
Acap has also been working with government agencies on implementing other measures. These include limiting passengers inside the airport terminals to those with confirmed flights, temperature checks and mandatory use of face masks.
The industry reiterated its call for financial assistance as members are bleeding billions of pesos in lost revenues and expenses.
Acap has been appealing for assistance under the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act 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,” Lim said.
“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,” he added.
The International Air Transport Association earlier estimated losses from Philippine carriers and tourism at $4.48 billion, while job losses could reach 548,300 this year alone.