Dubai: Commercial flights between Dubai and Manila on Cebu Pacific (CebPac) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) stand cancelled until June 30 due to continued travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, Philippine carriers have confirmed to Gulf News on Tuesday.
Repatriation flights organised by the Philippine missions in the UAE and private companies, however, will not be affected by these travel restrictions. Emirates and Etihad too will continue to operate flights to and from Manila, but only for transiting passengers from non-restricted countries. The restrictions on the carriage of passengers originating from the UAE will remain in effect until June 30.
No CebPac and PAL flights
CebPac said in a statement sent to Gulf News: “In line with the recent announcement of the Philippine government on the extension of the temporary entry restriction from the UAE (and other countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Oman), Cebu Pacific will be cancelling its flights to and from Dubai until June 30, 2021,”.
CebPac had earlier cancelled its flights to and from Dubai from June 15 to 20 as a pre-emptive measure. “Affected passengers have been notified via their contact details provided during booking. Guests may select their preferred option through the manage booking portal on the Cebu Pacific website up to 30 days from original date of departure. Due to the high volume of requests, the refund process may take up to seven months from date of request,” the airline added.
A PAL official in Dubai also confirmed to Gulf News that flights (PR658 and PR659) between Manila and Dubai will remain cancelled until June 30.
Extension of restrictions
On Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte approved the extension of travel restrictions imposed on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, UAE and Oman until June 30.
The Philippine government had first imposed restrictions on inbound travel from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Oman and the UAE from May 15 until May 31. PAL and CebPac then extended the flight cancellation between the UAE and Philippines until June 15, following the decision by the Philippine government to first extend restrictions on “travellers going to the Philippines coming from seven countries, including the UAE, until June 15”.
Exemptions on travel restrictions
Despite the travel restrictions, repatriation flights organised by the Philippine Consulate in Dubai and Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi remain unaffected. Paul Raymund Cortes, the Philippine Consul-General, confirmed around 350 Filipinos will be repatriated on Wednesday as part of the continuing repatriation programme organised by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
On Monday, PAL flight PR8659 (DXB-MNL), a chartered flight organised by an agency in Manila for stranded seafarers, left Dubai at 8.45pm. “Despite the flight restrictions, we are still busy coordinating chartered flights. Another repatriation flight for stranded seafarers is scheduled for June 23,” a PAL official told Gulf News.
Cortes added: “We ask our kababayans (fellow Filipinos) who wish to avail of Philippine government’s assistance to return to the country to email the consulate at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rest assured that the Philippine government — keeping the welfare of our people in mind — will always assist our kababayans in the most efficient way possible.”
Transit passengers allowed
UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad continue to operate flights to and from Manila, but are carrying only transiting passengers from non-restricted countries.
“In line with the latest directives issued by the government of Philippines, passengers from the UAE and Oman will not be accepted for travel to Manila (MNL) until further notice, with the exemption of Filipino citizens who are part of the government repatriation programme. This is in addition to the current ban on travel from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to the Philippines,” Etihad said in a statement sent to Gulf News on Tuesday.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline confirmed: “Etihad will continue to operate flights to Manila carrying transiting passengers from non-restricted countries and flights from Manila with passengers travelling to Abu Dhabi and across our network. These passengers will be subject to acceptance and quarantine conditions. Etihad is working closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries. This is an evolving situation and we will update guests as more information becomes available. Etihad regrets any inconvenience caused to its guests by these temporary restrictions,” it added.
An Emirates spokesperson said: “As directed by the government of the Philippines, restrictions on the carriage of passengers into the country will remain in effect until June 30. Passengers whose journey originates from the UAE, including Filipino nationals, will not be accepted for travel to all points in the Philippines. During this time, flights will continue to operate as scheduled and passengers transiting in Dubai and those returning to the Philippines under the government repatriation programme will be allowed to travel.
“We regret the inconvenience caused and affected customers should contact their booking agents or Emirates call centres for rebooking,” Emirates added.
Call to Philippine government
Malou Prado, managing director of MPQ Travel and Tourism, said the travel industry is hurting from the continued travel restrictions. She added: “We fervently hope this travel ban will end soon. Not only are businesses affected, but many people are also severely affected. We have clients who need to go back home for emergency reasons, but cannot travel.”
“We hope the Philipine government will lift the travel restrictions very soon. They should consider that the UAE is one of the first countries that implemented aggressive COVID-19 vaccination for residents. Many Filipino travellers from the UAE have already been vaccinated,” she added.
Geoffrey Salatan, manager, Sales and Client Relations at Airlink International, also urged the Philippine government “to increase more repatriation flights in order to accommodate more Filipinos. Overstaying passengers and compassionate travel must be prioritised”.