12.66M passengers arrived at MCIA in 2019

Carlo Lorenciana

THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) handled 12.66 million passengers in 2019, a year when new routes were mounted from the country’s second busiest air hub.

Passenger traffic last year rose 11 percent from 11.38 million in 2018.

International passengers grew significantly, hitting 4.29 million, up 14 percent.

Domestic traffic remained a key driver, rising 10 percent to 8.37 million in 2019.

Air traffic volume also rose seven percent to a total of 107,794 flights from January to December 2019.

International and domestic flights grew 12 percent and six percent to 25,439 and 75,010.

Efren Carreon, regional director at the National Economic and Development Authority in Central Visayas, said Cebu’s growing aviation traffic is benefiting the local economy.

The sustained arrivals showed Cebu’s booming tourism, Carreon said.

He said Cebu’s robust aviation growth is one of the positive indicators that pointed to a sustained growth in the regional economy in 2019.

Cebu has been banking on the foreign tourist market, led by Koreans and Chinese.

However, the industry is reeling on fears foreign arrivals might plunge in the first quarter of this year, as the country disrupts flights to and from China amid the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease scare.

China is currently Cebu’s second biggest source of foreign visitors.

Airlines flying from Cebu to Chinese cities have temporarily suspended their flights from Feb. 2, 2020 to heed the temporary China travel ban ordered by the Philippine government.

The directive bans the entry of any person of any nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of permanent resident visa issued by the Philippine government, who come directly from China and its special administrative regions (SARs) to the Philippines.

The directive also bans Filipinos from traveling to China and its Sars.

New airlines

Meanwhile, the MCIA expects new routes to open by the second quarter of this year.

Qatar Airways is reviving its direct link from Cebu to Doha starting April 8 while Philippine Airlines is also resuming its Cebu to Los Angeles route on May 2. Taiwanese startup carrier Starlux Airlines also plans to launch a daily direct flight from Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport to Cebu starting April 6, according to Routesonline.

Seoul has remained Cebu’s top global destination, with 401 flights every month, according to online flight map provider FlightConnections. It is followed by Singapore with 132 monthly flights, Busan with 124 flights per month and Taipei with 107 monthly flights.

MCIA is currently connected to 48 destinations in 10 countries, served by 26 airlines.

MCIA operator GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. said that route development initiatives would continue in 2020.