A passenger sits alone at the NAIA Terminal 1 on May 3, 2020 after a suspension of international flights.
The STAR/Rudy Santos, file
Philippines re-opens skies for needed flights
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - June 3, 2020 - 2:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Flights resumed on Wednesday after the government re-opened the country’s airspace, two and a half months since getting shut off during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other areas.

In separate advisories, local carriers announced they are mounting flights from Metro Manila to select areas in the Visayas and Mindanao where local government units (LGU) have finally acceded to the national government’s requests to open their airports and allow the entry of travelers.

It took a day two days from the National Capital Region’s shift to a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) to convince LGU officials wary people coming from other areas may be carrying the deadly virus with them. As a safety precaution, “only airports in areas under GCQ…support the resumption of domestic commercial operations,” the Civil Aeronautics Board said.

Leisure travel is prohibited for the time being, with flights mainly catering to returning migrant workers as well as stranded passengers going home.

“For verification and confirmation of airports that are already allowing resumption of operations, airlines and operators are advised to communicate with the airport authorities having jurisdiction over airports concerned to ensure proper coordination with the intended destination,” CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said in a June 2 advisory.

11 airports operational

Eleven of 42 gateways have re-opened. Apart from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, these were the airports in Romblon, Naga City, Clark in Pampanga, Cauayan, Palanan in Isabela, Marinduque, Camiguin, Ozamiz, Dipolog, Pagadian, Jolo and General Santos.

The government’s announcement was quickly followed by separate advisories for passengers from Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Air Inc. and AirAsia Philippines. 

Flag-carrier PAL announced it will operate on select international and domestic routes this month although some local flights on June 3-7 have been canceled “due to fine-tuning of local government entry restrictions and requirements.”

For its part, Gokongwei-led Cebu Air said its first flights since the lockdown would bring passengers home to General Santos, Naga and Cagayan de Oro. Passengers were told be at the airport “at least three hours” before their flights due to intensive screening protocols against the coronavirus disease-2019.

“Physical distancing will also be observed from check-in to boarding to deplaning,” the budget carrier said in its advisory.

For AirAsia, planes will not fly until June 5, on which flights from Manila and Clark to Cebu, Davao, Puerto Princesa and Cagayan de Oro will be hosted. From that date, the airline said flights will be gradually increased to include international destinations by July 1.

In Manila, AirAsia operations will also be “temporarily moved” to NAIA Terminal 3 from the original Terminal 4.

“Guests can expect enhanced safety measures throughout the entire journey, including pre-flight, in-flight, and arrival processes. These include mandatory wearing of face masks to be permitted to travel, among others,” the airline said.

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