Clark Airport sees recovery in passenger numbers by 2026

THE operator of Clark International Airport, Luzon International Premier Airport Development Corp. (LIPAD), said it expects passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2026, though the recovery could take place as early as 2025.

“So, hopefully, 2025 will probably be the earliest, and 2026 the latest year that we will be able to do 100% recovery of our pre-pandemic numbers,” LIPAD President and Chief Executive Officer Noel Manankil said at the One Clark Forum on Friday.

“We’d like to do the recovery faster… But in reality, and I think everybody’s aware, there are some challenges also in the industry,” Mr. Manankil said.

These challenges, he said, include the grounding of some aircraft for engine problems involving the Airbus A320/321 NEO fleet, which is in wide use among Philippine carriers.

Last year, engine supplier Pratt & Whitney announced the need to inspect the aircraft type’s engines, which has disrupted flights.

Visitor numbers from China have also not recovered due to travel restrictions, he added.

“If you look at the mix of travelers and airlines that are present in Clark, a big chunk of that is actually coming from the Chinese market. So, that has not recovered fully,” Mr. Manankil said.

Last year, passenger traffic, including domestic and international, at Clark airport hit 2 million, or about 50% of 2019 levels. 

The number of flights at the airport totaled 14,867 last year, equivalent to 42% of 2019 levels, with domestic flights at 24% recovery.

“This year we are looking at anywhere from 2.4 million passengers to 2.7 million passengers, and we are reviewing our traffic projections with (operations concession holder Changi Airports International),” Mr. Manankil said.

The airport’s capacity as designed is 8 million passengers per annum, but as built, capacity is only at 4 million.

Meanwhile, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and Chief Executive Officer Joshua M. Bingcang said that to support LIPAD in achieving its targets, the BCDA, together with Clark International Airport Corp., will be embarking on infrastructure upgrades.

“The thing about Clark (airport) is that it’s government infrastructure. So definitely, the government will provide the needed support,” Mr. Bingcang said.

These projects include the P1.1-billion CRK Direct Access Link to the airport and the P21-billion Clark Entertainment and Events Center.

“These infrastructure projects will ensure that the objective of achieving those numbers is realized,” he said.

The BCDA is also hoping to build a second runway to attract more airlines and provide redundancy for Clark operations in the event of shutdowns or maintenance. — Justine Irish D. Tabile