FLAG carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific (CEB) are rerouting their flights to Dubai to work around current clampdowns on the number of passengers and flights arriving or leaving the emirate.

PAL’s regular Manila-Dubai flight left via Davao on Thursday, carrying 100 passengers, while CEB has been bringing home Filipinos from Dubai to Manila using Cebu or Davao as transit point, according to spokespersons of both carriers.

PAL had to cancel its Manila-Dubai-Cebu flights on October 31 and November 1 and 2, saying in a news statement, “We are compelled to cancel the following flights to and from Dubai because of flight restrictions imposed by local authorities. These cancellations and adjustments are beyond PAL’s control and prevent us from serving the urgent needs of our OFWs and other passengers….”

Business traveler Marivic Segismundo and her team from an international maritime e-commerce company were among those affected by the PAL cancellations. They were supposed to leave for Dubai aboard PR 658 on November 1 to attend their company’s planning conference. “PAL informed us less than 24 hours before boarding. Where does that leave us?”

 She said this was already a rescheduled flight as their initial flight was supposed to leave on October 31, and had also been cancelled less than a day before departure. “Because of PAL’s initial cancellation, my team and I had to take a second RT-PCR test 1.5 days after our first to comply with Dubai’s 72-hours prior-to-arrival rule. PAL sent us the second cancellation just as the medical person was leaving my house after the second RT-CR test. They were offering us yet a third rebooking for November 3, but that would not have worked because by the time we would have arrived and fulfilled Dubai’s 24-hour arrival quarantine from non-green countries, the planning conference would have ended.”

She added, “In all, the company spent money for visas, swabs, and hotel penalties. But the biggest cost? Stress and the likely perception that Manila is not a viable location for operational support while Covid exists.”

Departures ex-Dubai to Manila cut as well

Separate aviation sources told the BusinessMirror the adjustments had to made after Dubai authorities did not give PAL the final permit to land on those days. A regular PAL or Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to Dubai using an Airbus 330-300 carries around 400 passengers.

The same sources said “Dubai authorities are [also] giving carriers originating from Dubai a cap of 70 passengers per flight to Manila. That cap is also being imposed on UAE-based carriers [not just on PAL and CEB].”

Dubai’s restrictions, they averred,  were “in retaliation” for Manila’s capping of the number of passengers that could arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) per day. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has actually raised this limit to 4,000 passengers per day from the earlier 3,000 passengers — a restriction which does not exist in the country’s other gateways like Davao or Cebu.

“Dubai civil aviation and Emirates are not happy that the Philippine government imposed a cap on arrivals into Manila. So they’re squeezing PAL and CEB now. [Despite the increased cap], all airlines have to share in that. That’s still not enough for Emirates and certain airlines. (Saudia too.),” the sources said.

PAL’s news statement also hinted at the air turbulence between UAE and the Philippines. “[We] urgently appeal to the Philippine and Dubai authorities to work towards resolving the situation so that we may again be able to operate our planned schedule of flights to and from Dubai and make use of all our seats onboard each flight, for the interest of our passengers.” PAL and CEB officials declined to comment on the issue.

CAB investigating issue

Civil Aeronautics Board officials would not comment on the issue as of presstime, but insiders said the agency is working to investigate and resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said, “For November 3, 4, and 6, we intend to route our Dubai services to and from Davao instead of Manila. Our November 5 flights will be routed to and from Cebu, instead of Manila. Using these alternate gateways will allow us to transport our passengers between the UAE and the Philippines in the coming days.” There are also plans to fly to Sharjah, another emirate, just a 30-minute drive to Dubai.

For CEB, its Dubai-Davao flights have been in place since October 21, while its Dubai-Cebu flights started on October 29. “We offer ex-Dubai straight to either Davao or Cebu so we can accommodate more passengers coming home,” said CEB spokesperson Pao Lim. “Then we provide free flights to Manila after they’ve completed their required quarantine. There are no passenger flights exiting Cebu or Davao to Dubai, only Manila-Dubai.”





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