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Philippine fliers to double in 10 years

MANILA, January 20, 2011 (AFP) – Domestic air traffic in the Philippines is expected to more than double to over 40 million passengers in less than 10 years, one of the country’s major airlines said Thursday.

The rise of low-cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific Air already saw domestic air traffic jump sharply to more than 17 million passengers last year, said the carrier’s vice president for commercial planning, Alex Reyes.

“If we take a long-term view, with… per capita incomes rising along with the healthy economy, we will have a domestic passenger market of more than 40 million passengers before the end of this decade,” he said.

“If we think our airports are already busy today, we have news for everyone: there is a surge coming,” Reyes told an industry meeting on Wednesday, a copy of which was provided to AFP on Thursday.

Citing industry figures, Reyes said Philippine air carrier fleets would rise to 67 narrow-bodied jets this year compared with 47 in 2008, leading to more pressure for lower fares, which could drive passenger traffic even higher.

Cebu Pacific, which is expanding regionally as well as within the Philippines, is planning to expand its fleet by 21 planes to 53 in four years.

Rival budget carrier AirAsia, a Malaysian-based airline, has also announced plans to set up Philippine operations this year.

But Reyes warned surging traffic would require massive investments in passenger terminals, runways, and more airport personnel to handle the extra load.

“Having the infrastructure in place means companies will have the confidence to invest billions to further grow their business. Too often, we all play catch up,” he said.

Reyes said Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest budget carrier and number-one Philippine airline in terms of passengers, would run out of space at its assigned Manila airport terminal next year.

Cebu Pacific is in talks with the government to expand the capacity of Manila airport’s Terminal 3, which handles both domestic and international traffic, to 20 million passengers a year from 13 million, he said.

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