By Rose de la Cruz I Published: July 22, 2020
Ever since government replaced the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) with GCQ (GCQ), airlines have put in place health safety protocols for the cabin and its crew and for the fliers as well.
Still, despite ground and cabin safety measures, many people are wary of flying in closed aircraft, as contamination of COVID-19 is more likely.
For instance, Cebu Pacific announced that since June, it had flown 550 passenger flights to 19 destinations in the country as part of its gradual restart of the network.
For July, aside from flights in select Philippine destinations, it began operating international flights with one weekly service between Manila and Dubai, keeping in mind passenger health safety and protection.
Using Airbus-approved disinfectants against viruses, daily aircraft disinfection is done by Bureau of Quarantine-certified teams, said CebuPac.
Hospital-grade high efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters are used in Airbus aircraft.
New Normal Operations
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines said since last May, it put in place acrylic barriers in check-in counters, appointed social distancing managers, intensive aircraft disinfection, HEPA filters, and personal protective equipment for flight crew as its “new normal for operations.”
PAL Spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the flag carrier submitted to authorities a list of domestic and international routes that can be restarted as far back as several weeks before May 27 as to the number of domestic flights and international flight to operate.”
All canceled tickets due to COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns are entitled to rerouting, refund and rebooking, Villaluna said.
Those with tickets starting June but have apprehensions on flying, can rebook once for free, she said.
Stringent health and security protocols including mandatory wearing of facemasks and personal protective equipment for cabin crew are being observed, she said.
PAL posted on its website (www. philippineairlines.com) its July 2020 flight schedules, “highly subject to change for reasons beyond our control” that may have to be cancelled, add frequencies to or adjusted from planned schedules based on: evolving entry restrictions and requirements set by LGUs for domestic travel and constraints in COVID-19 testing and quarantine facilities for international arrivals in the Philippines and travel bans and restrictions in other countries.
In the updated July 14 schedules, PAL said certain flights might be rerouted to land in Cebu or Clark instead of Manila because of limited COVID-19 testing slots in Manila.
If so, passengers will undergo testing and hotel quarantine at their gateway point in Cebu and Clark and PAL will arrange for transfer to Manila for those with negative test results within 24 to 48 hours of testing.
PAL enjoined passengers to bring their own facemasks or facial covering, as they are required to wear them at the airport and throughout their flight.
PAL also encouraged fliers to check in online and arrive early at the airport to allocate extra time for new safety procedures (thermal scanning, social distancing practices for queuing, etc.) or at least three hours prior to departure for domestic flights and four hours for international flights.
Though travel restrictions have been somewhat eased, those 60 and above and those below 21 are still not allowed to travel under government guidelines.
Also restricted are those with comorbidities or health risks and pregnant women, except under allowed circumstances.
As of July 15, Metro Manila and Cebu registered the highest number of cases, with an increasing number of deaths and recoveries.
Hospitals in these regions have declared full capacity, advising patients to tap other hospitals for their other health needs.
Tourism Revenue Losses
Estimates of tourism revenue losses vary with the National Economic and Development Authority citing a P22.7 billion ($448 million) monthly loss as the impact of the pandemic, which would last around five to six months based on experiences with SARS, H1N1 and MERS outbreaks.
Over 5,200 flights covering two months, serviced by member airlines of the Air-Carriers Association of the Philippines, were canceled.
The Asian Development Bank projects losses to the tourism sector of P111 billion ($2.2 billion) while the Tourism Congress of the Philippines cites P20 billion ($395 thousand) accounting for 12 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.