THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is looking into long-term development of the country’s second largest air hub, as it slowly recovers from the air travel plunge triggered by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.
Steve Dicdican, general manager of the state-run MCIA Authority, said it will likely take about two years for the aviation industry to return to its pre-Covid growth levels.
Looking at a long-term perspective, he pointed to the good prospects of Cebu’s aviation growth, with the long-term development plan for MCIA now in place, as well as the upcoming second runway.
“We will continue with our projects. We’re slowly catching up to full blast the construction of the second runway. We hope to finish it before the end of this administration probably early 2022,” Dicdican said in an online talk show hosted by Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.
Dicdican said the parallel runway is a milestone for Cebu.
He pinned his optimism on the long-term growth plan for MCIA, based on the concession agreement with its private operator GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp.
“We (the airport) will grow as the market grows. Our airport has a modular design so we can always expand. We are built for growth,” Dicdican said, noting that if these expansion plans are realized, the Cebu air gateway can handle as many as 35 million passengers a year.
He said he believes tourism can bounce back once travel restrictions are eased and traveler's confidence are regained.
“We anticipate for future growth. We need to ensure we are sustainable,” he said.
For this year, he said MCIA is likely to see passenger traffic plunging to about three million, a level that was last seen more 10 years ago.
He said the impact of the pandemic was bad. Prior to Covid-19, MCIA had 12.6 million in passenger traffic last year. Starting February this year onwards, he said traffic drastically went down.
While MCIA has started to resume airport operations, he said it will take time for the airlines to respond.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the MCIA would usually accommodate some 1,900 commercial flights weekly and 31,100 passengers daily.
According to Dicdican, airlines resuming flights to and from Cebu will also have to work to market their routes as travel demand remains low this time.
He said they are looking at recovering at least 30 percent of the market by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, MCIA has also started operating its own molecular laboratory inside the airport for Covid-19 testing after securing Department of Health (DOH) and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine accreditations.
MCIA becomes the first airport in the country to have its dedicated Covid-19 testing laboratory that employs the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) techniques.
The 400-square-meter laboratory, according to MCIAA, is designed to process around 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day whose results may be produced after 24 hours.
MCIA’s molecular laboratory is the fourth facility in Cebu accredited to carry out Covid-19 tests. The others are located in DOH in Central Visayas’ compound, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and in a private hospital in Lapu-Lapu City. (WBS with PR)