The operator of budget airline Cebu Paci­fic swung to a net loss in the first quarter of 2020 as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic clipped the airline sector’s wings.

Cebu Air Inc. said in a stock exchange filing that losses from January to March this year hit P1.18 billion—a 135.2-percent reversal from the P3.36 billion profit in the first quarter of 2019.

Cebu Air said passenger traffic stood at 4.4 million—a drop of 16.5 percent or 900,000 flyers.

“The overall decline in revenues was brought about by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak which started with cancellation of flights to China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea in varying periods during the quarter due to the imposition of travel restrictions,” Cebu Air said.

Regular operations were eventually shuttered after the government implemented an enhanced community quarantine last March 17.

Cebu Air said total revenue fell 24.9 percent to P15.9 billion.

Passenger revenue hit P11.39 billion, down 27.4 percent. Ave­rage fares also dropped 13 percent to P2,580 as the carrier sought to stimulate demand with travel promotions before the lockdown was implemented.

Cargo revenue also fell 29.7 percent to P1.01 billion while ancillary sales were down 13.4 percent to P3.51 billion.

In the meantime, AirAsia Philippines, a unit of Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad, said passenger traffic went down by almost 174,000 flyers in the first quarter of 2020.

AirAsia Philippines said in a stock exchange filing that it still carried some 1.8 million passengers from January to March, down 9 percent from year-ago numbers.

The two airlines’ first quarter performance provides a preview of COVID-19’s impact on the airline industry for the whole year.

The second quarter is expected to show a bigger fall in passenger traffic. A lockdown on key markets remains in place and may only be lifted by May 15 at the earliest.

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