Subic airport defies travel slowdown

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Sometimes good things happen unexpectedly. Take the case of Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

At a time when international passenger air traffic is down 60% and airport revenues are down 66% due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Subic terminal is defying the odds and welcoming more international flights.

The reason for this surprising windfall? The frequent arrival here of Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights to bring home Filipino Overseas Workers (OFW) stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was the result of a Civil Aeronautics Council (CAB) policy to impose a limit on all international airports in the country to accommodate only 1,500 passengers per day in order to avoid overcrowding during the pandemic.

And as a result, PAL has distributed its flights to various airports to meet the market. Subic Airport, which had seen far more flight school training flights than international flights in recent years, then became an alternate entry point for returning workers.

More movement

On a recent Tuesday, the last PAL flight to Subic arrived with 299 foreign workers from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

This was the 27th such Philippine Airlines arrivals since July of this year, when Subic became an alternate port for OFW repatriation. That total did not include nine other flights that were diverted to nearby Clark Airport in inclement weather.

Abu Dhabi overseas Filipino workers arrive at Subic Bay International Airport on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

SBMA airport manager Zharrex Santos said that under the government’s OFW repatriation program, SBIA handled a total of 9,159 international passengers, including 8,455 OFW on land and 421 OFW at sea, as well as 274 Filipino and nine non-OFW foreign passengers.

Of these, more than 8,400 passengers brought in by PAL also stayed at hotels in Subic for their mandatory seven to 10 day quarantine, providing another source of additional income for the Subic Bay Freeport.

According to the SBMA’s tourism department, a total of 23 hotels and accommodation establishments with a combined capacity of nearly a thousand rooms have signed up for the quarantine hotel program. Nineteen of them are in the Subic Bay free port area and four in the town of Olongapo.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Trustee Wilma T. Eisma said the use of Subic as an alternative port of entry for the government’s OFW repatriation program has given the airport Breathtaking new life as a global gateway.

“Subic has seen a resurgence in international aircraft and passenger movements, as well as improved airport revenues since then,” Eisma said Tuesday.

“In the third quarter of 2021 alone, OFW flights provided Subic airport with 1.6 million pesos in direct revenue, as well as 218.7 million pesos in revenue for hotels in Subic. But aside from the impact on revenues, here we are proving that Subic can be a global gateway and that is what is most important from a strategic point of view, ”added Eisma.

More income

ACCORDING to a report by the SBMA Port Operations Group, aircraft movements at Subic Airport in the third quarter of 2021 increased to 17,756, up 25% from the 14,220 recorded in the third quarter of last year. .

While most of the movements involved domestic planes, a total of 55 international flights landed during the months of July, August and September, the report said. These flights have resulted in an increase in the number of international passengers registered at Subic, from just 137 in the second quarter of 2021 to a figure of 5,800 in the third quarter.

“The increase in international passenger movements of 4,134% has been attributed to the repatriation of Filipino workers overseas and the return of Filipinos overseas (ROF),” said Ronnie Yambao, senior deputy administrator of SBMA for the SBMA operations group.

Yambao added that in the same period, Subic Airport recorded an actual turnover of 62.15 million pesos, exceeding its revenue target of 49.52 million pesos by 126%. Third-quarter income was also 32% higher than in the same period last year, he said.

According to SBMA records, Subic Bay International Airport garnered 40.48 million pesos in leases, 21.62 million pesos in airport fees and 48,672 pesos in fees in the third quarter.

The same report indicated that the SBIA was charging P47 267 for the landing and take-off costs per flight. Other fees paid to the airport vaults included those for parking, passes and stickers, vehicle escort, and rooms.

Strategic direction

OFW flights to Subic also provide a way to test the capacity of Subic Bay International Airport, which is being upgraded to serve as a global gateway in the future, President Eisma said.

“We are continuing the airport rehabilitation program that we started three years ago, and successful OFW flights now indicate that we have made substantial progress in modernizing SBIA facilities and equipment,” a- she declared.

Among the upgrades made for the Subic terminal that were required for an international airport were new omnidirectional very high frequency Doppler (DVOR / DME) distance measuring equipment, an automated weather observation system (AWOS), an approach navigation system (RNAV), and a new air-ground communication system for air traffic control.

Prior to OFW flights, the SBIA also served as a crew change hub since September last year as part of another government program to bring stranded Filipino sailors home and facilitate their return to work. after a few vacations in the country.

Eisma said it was also an unexpected development that helped SBMA assess the need for better facilities and upgraded equipment that will make Subic Airport a more competitive global gateway in the future.


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