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New rules await passengers as flights resume in 8 PH airports

By: Inquirer Visayas, Julie Aurelio, Leila B. Salaverria - Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 03,2020 - 06:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines — Commercial flights are set to resume in at least eight airports in the country this week as the country relaxes travel restrictions, but passengers should brace themselves for more waiting time and a host of new health protocols.

Those taking international flights should be at the airport four hours before their departure, while those taking domestic flights should be there three hours before their plane leaves, according to Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Commercial flights are set to resume at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Clark International Airport and airports in Romblon, Legazpi City, Naga City, Cauayan City, Palanan town and Marinduque, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Tuesday in Iloilo City.

Galvez said the opening of airports and ports would help revive the economy.

The chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said the airports would be allowed to cater to commercial flights but only for work-related trips or essential travel.

Seven other airports have declared willingness to accept flights subject to observance of health measures. These include the airports in San Jose in Antique, Laguindingan in Misamis Oriental, Camiguin and the cities of Dipolog, Pagadian, Ozamiz and General Santos.

LGU consent

Galvez said interzonal travel between areas under general community quarantine was allowed but it was up to local governments to declare the readiness of their airports and ports to commercial flights.

“What can we do if we allow planes to fly but local governments reject them?” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a press briefing.

As to foreigners, the government has yet to decide if it will allow them entry amid the pandemic, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

Roque noted that the government was already doing a lot of work in testing arriving overseas Filipino workers for COVID-19.

Filipinos holding foreign passports may not be allowed to enter the country if they do not have dual citizenship, he said.

Global protocol

Wearing of masks, temperature controls, and disinfection of aircraft are among the health recommendations that the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) published on Monday.

The recommendations are intended to serve as a “framework” for assuring the safety of passengers and workers on planes and at airports.

On their arrival at airports, travelers should present a health certificate and undergo an initial temperature check, under the guidelines.

Online check-in before arriving at the airport should be given priority, and passages through security should be re-thought to limit physical contact and waiting in lines.

Mobile tickets are advised, as well as other forms of no-contact technology, such as facial or eye scans.

Travel light

Passengers are encouraged to travel as light as possible, with just one small piece of hand luggage. Newspapers and magazines will no longer be allowed on board, and duty-free sales will be limited.

The wearing of a mask or face covering should be obligatory inside aircraft and terminals, where physical distancing of at least one meter should be respected.

Aboard planes, passengers should wear masks, move as little as possible within the cabin, and not line up outside toilets to lessen the risk of infecting other passengers.

People will be assigned specific toilet stalls on the plane in relation to where they are seated. Flight attendants will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) that could include visors, gloves and medical masks.

But Icao does not advocate leaving every other seat open to assure physical distancing, a restriction that the airline industry sees as a threat to its profitability. It, nevertheless, asks passengers to remain as far from one another as possible.

Social distancing managers

At a press briefing, PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline had deployed “social distancing managers” for the check-in and boarding process.

PAL’s aircraft would also undergo intensive disinfection using high-grade, eco-friendly disinfectant after every flight, Villaluna said.

The aircraft has a high-efficiency particulate air (hepa) filtration system that ensures the air in the cabin is purified, she added. The cabin crew would be in protective gear, and foodservice would be simplified.

PAL advised passengers to bring their own sanitizers.

Villaluna said PAL’s Manila-San Francisco flight on Monday went well.

It carried US citizens, US residents and other foreign passport holders. Filipinos are not yet allowed on international flights.

Eat before boarding

PAL’s domestic flights would begin on Wednesday. It would fly to Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete and Cagayan de Oro.

Cebu Pacific spokesperson Charo Logarta Lagamon also advised passengers to be at the airport earlier than before as the check-in and boarding process was likely to take longer. Face masks are a must.

Lagamon advised Cebu Pacific passengers to eat before boarding their flight, especially if this would coincide with meal times because snacks and refreshments would not be served on board.

She also said Cebu Pacific had intensified the cleaning and disinfection of its aircraft and had PPEs for the crew and workers. —With reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla Gomez, Dale Israel and AFP, INQ

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