To aid their recovery, major airline groups have urged government to allow increased mobility for vaccinated Filipinos, scrap travel requirements that are costing as much as P25,000 per passenger, and place North America on the list of green countries.
According to the group, strict policies of both the national and local governments discourage travelers from flying to various parts of the country or even abroad, translating to billions of pesos in lost revenues for the industry.
Most destinations require an RT-PCR test plus long quarantines for arriving passengers from international flights.
The airline groups sought the help of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion to appeal to the government.
“For airlines to survive, there has to be sustainable number of passengers especially for the tourism industry,” Concepcion maintained.
The government should scrap multiple requirements for traveling, especially for domestic destinations, and expensive testing.
When it comes to international flights, “Travelers consider requirements, such as testing and the quarantine periods very burdensome, forcing them to put off their travel plans,” explained Philippine Airlines (PAL) President and COO Gilbert Sta Maria and Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee.
The flag carrier proposed piloting a new protocol to reduce risk and cost to passengers of international flights.
Under the proposal, passengers will be tested 72 hours before departure and will undergo quarantine upon arrival and take an RT-PCR test on the third day.
If the result is negative, they can go out of the quarantine facility on the 5th day and continue home quarantine.
Based on the data presented, testing before departure helps reduce positivity rate and risk.
The proposal would also enable passengers to save as much as P25,000 and allow quarantine at home, PAL executives reiterated.
The stakeholders also requested the government to place North America on the list of green countries as this is the biggest market for local airlines. PAL alone earned $1 billion from the North American market before the pandemic.
For their part, Cebu Pacific (CEB) called on the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to release guidelines to allow fully vaccinated Filipinos to travel domestically to help start tourism and economic activities.
“They must only present a vaccination card or DICT vaccination certificate as sole requirement,” according to Vice President for Cargo Alex Reyes.
However, local government units may require RT-PCR test for unvaccinated travelers, he added.
If testing will still be required, antigen testing should be used because it is cheaper and more convenient, proposed Air Asia CEO Ricky Isla.
The proposal is similar to the Bakuna Bubble which Concepcion advocates.
Under the Bakuna Bubble, COVID-19 guidelines are eased for fully vaccinated individuals to help boost the economy and protect the employment of many Filipinos.
The hotel industry, represented by Philippine Hotel Owners Association Executive Director Bong Bengzon, asked the government to revisit the number of passengers who are allowed to come in as they can handle the influx of tourists once the tourism industry is opened.
On the other hand, the bus transportation industry supported the call to allow intra/inter-provincial travel for vaccinated individuals to revive their sector.
Keeping the airline industry healthy is vital to the survival of hotels, travel agents and operators, and tourism-related businesses, most of them small and medium enterprises.
Airline stakeholders and Concepcion met with Department of Health (DOH) Adviser Dr. Edsel Salvana, who committed to take up their proposals to the Inter Agency Task Force during their next meeting.