Budget carriers fly back to China

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
Budget carriers fly back to China
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific's cabin for the A330neo aircraft, as seen in a news release in February 2022.
Cebu Pacific / Released via Smile Magazine

MANILA, Philippines — Low-cost airlines are starting to catch up with flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in reinstating their pre-crisis routes to China, taking advantage of Beijing’s decision to lift its health restrictions on leisure travel.

Cebu Pacific yesterday announced that it increased its flight frequency to Hong Kong to four times daily in light of its government’s decision to relax travel protocols.

The Gokongwei-led airline said it now flies to Hong Kong by up to 28 times every week and expects demand for the route to go up with a seat sale ongoing.

Upon check-in, travelers must present a negative result from an antigen test within 24 hours and a proof of vaccination of primary doses for non-residents of Hong Kong. Upon arrival, they must take a self-arranged test every day until the fifth day, removing the prior requirement of taking a quarantine for at least three to five days.

Further into the mainland, Cebu Pacific is set to restore direct flights to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Xiamen within the first quarter of 2023. Likewise, the budget airline is scheduled to fly three times a week to Macau starting March.

By March, Cebu Pacific will recover 100 percent of its pre-pandemic network made up of 34 domestic destinations and 25 international routes.

Meanwhile, low-cost carrier AirAsia Philippines will resume direct flights to Guangzhou in February, the first route in China the airline will reopen during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, AirAsia Philippines flew trips to Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen in a proof of how important China is to the local unit of the Malaysian carrier.

AirAsia Philippines plans to expand its flight network in East Asia, especially to China, after the region lagged behind the rest of the world in lifting its border restrictions. In line with this, the low-cost carrier has resumed direct flights between Manila and Kaohsiung to serve the recovery of travel demand to Taiwan.

Local airlines also expect flight bookings to go up in February when airfares are set to drop due to the decline in fuel surcharge. For February, the Civil Aeronautics Board cut the fuel surcharge to Level 6, reducing it to P185 to P665 for domestic flights and P610.37 to P4,538.4 for foreign trips.

PAL, for its part, started the year ahead of its competitors in terms of restoring its flight network in China, a country that airlines around the world found difficult flying again on measures it had enforced on virus containment.

In the second week of January, PAL operated commercial flights to Guangzhou and Xiamen for the first time during the pandemic, marking the resumption of air travel between the Philippines and China.


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