Philippine Airlines (PAL) started to cancel international flights after plans to lift the government’s daily cap of 4,000 overseas arrivals had stalled.
The flag carrier warned in a statement that arrival restrictions would “end up preventing thousands of overseas Filipinos from returning home.”
Thus far, PAL announced the cancellation from Manila-Singapore flight PR507/508 on Dec. 21. On Dec. 19, it rescheduled a Manila-Damman flight to the following day to meet the daily cap at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“We seek the public’s understanding over this unfortunate situation. We are a vital air bridge to bring families together, and we try to do all we can to fly our countrymen home, hence the flights we had arranged to serve their urgent travel needs,” Dexter C. Lee, PAL senior vice president and chief strategy and planning officer, said in a statement.
“However, we have to abide by the latest limits and we regret that this will prevent us from serving many travelers,” he added.
Carriers, including PAL, were banking on the doubling of the daily cap to 10,000 passengers to allow them to serve strong demand during the busy Christmas holidays. After the Omicron coronavirus variant was detected overseas, the plan was put on hold.
In its statement, PAL continued to urge the government to raise the limit on international arrivals.
PAL’s share amounted to a fourth of the daily cap—or 1,200 passengers per day— to cover flights from at least 22 cities in the Middle East, North America, Asia and Australia.
“We maintain our appeal to allow more arrivals to address the crying need to bring our compatriots home at this special time of the year,” Lee said.” We will do all we can to work with the government authorities, including assistance with quarantine hotel bookings, to achieve this.”
“Indeed, we are very grateful for the support that our government has extended in recent weeks, and we have made full use of alternate gateways in Subic, Davao, Cebu and Bohol to cater to the peak season arrivals,” Lee added.
The flag carrier earlier appealed for a higher cap to accommodate the thousands of returning Filipinos. It also provided assurances that all OFWs would have pre-arranged hotel bookings above those set by the Overseas Welfare Workers’ Administration.
“The flag carrier is left with no choice but to cancel certain flights to comply with the stricter limits on certain days. An unplanned shortage in quarantine hotel rooms allotted for OFWs has limited the ability of OWWA to absorb arrivals from OFW-heavy countries,” PAL said.