By EMMIE V. ABADILLA
Philippine Airlines (PAL) yesterday mounted special flights to assist passengers stranded as a result of the cancellation of all PAL flights to and from mainland China for the month of February, amidst the ongoing coronavirus (nCoV ARD) situation.
The special PAL flights serving the Manila-Xiamen and Xiamen-Manila routes will be staffed with pilots and cabin crew who volunteered for the service. The flag carrier plans to use its 199-seater Airbus A321 aircraft for the planned mission.
The inbound flight from Xiamen will enable Filipino citizens and holders of Philippine permanent resident visas to fly back to the Philippines. The outbound flight from Manila will allow Chinese and other non-Filipino nationals to return to mainland China via Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, which is a gateway to other points in China.
The flag carrier was compelled to cancel its mainland China flights since February 2, after the Philippine government imposed a ban on travel of Filipinos to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, along with restrictions barring foreign nationals from China from entering the Philippines (except for those holding Philippine-issued Permanent Resident Visas).
Flight PR 334 departed Manila for Xiamen at 7:30 a.m. on February 10, arriving at 9:55 a.m. The return PR335 leg departed Xiamen at 11:05 a.m., and arrived in Manila at 1:50 p.m. on the same day.
These special flights are subject to final government approvals, including the waiver of the Filipino travel ban for concerned pilots and cabin crew, who will have to submit to home quarantine for 14 days after their return to the Philippines.
At present, 64 PAL crew members are undergoing the mandated 14-day quarantine after flying in from China prior to the imposed travel ban. All PAL crew members are Filipino nationals.