FOR three years, Elvis Maribung, a printing press worker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has not seen his family in Cagayan due to the travel hassles from the the pandemic. In August this year, he tried to file his vacation leave, but was told there are no flights available.
Then this week, his hopes went up again—Saudi Arabia was named one of the green list countries and he could go home without quarantine. He immediately filed for leave and his office booked his flight.
When his two-way ticket was handed over to him, he read and saw the cost of his flight—6,050 Saudi riyals or more than P81,000.
“It was good that our office will pay for my ticket. I don’t think I could go ahead with my vacation if I had to pay that sum,” Elvis told the BusinessMirror, speaking partyly in Filipino.
It turns out that airline companies are charging sky-high fees for overseas Filipinos wishing to fly back to the Philippines in time for Christmas.
A review SkyScanner travel website shows that if an overseas Filipino would books for a December 1 flight and returns on December 30 the two-way tickets would cost:
Los Angeles-Mla-Los Angeles—P92,981 – P118,000
Rome – Mla – Rome P50,000- P154,000
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. suggested an increase in the number of passenger arrivals for fully vaccinated OFWs in the coming weeks leading to Christmas season.
“We have to raise the cap on arrivals of OFWs fully vaccinated first and foremost in the Middle East so they can come home for Christmas without paying thousands of $ for an economy seat which airlines have to charge to barely recover cost. If vaccinated, let them in,” he said in a tweet.
To control the spread of Covid-19, the Philippine government is only allowing 4,000 passengers per day at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This has sparked counter moves from other countries, raising air fares in the process.
Aside from Manila, flights to Clark, Subic and Cebu airports for all international airlines would also help OFWs.
“The cap has jacked up economic prices to US$7,000 for economy, denying them means to go home for Christmas,” Locsin said.
While airline fees were normally high at this time of the year before the pandemic, he noted that it would also help the Philippine economy if more Filipinos can come to the Philippines.
“We can’t have economic recovery of airlines by squeezing to a pulp OFWs’ right to return home, especially for Christmas, or the politicians will have a miserable 2022 Christmas as defeated candidates,” Locsin asserted.
As for Elvis, he hopes the Philippine government would not close the borders again, derailing his much-anticipated reunion with his wife and kids.
“Sana ay hindi na ma-cancel ang flight ko ng December lalo na at napasali na sa green list country ang Saudi Arabia dahil miss na miss ko na ang Pilipinas at ang family ko [I hope my flight in December won’t be cancelled, especially now that Saudi Arabia is now a green-list country. I really miss the country and my family],” Elvis said.–