PAL says to increase domestic flights as omicron fails to dampen 'revenge travel'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2021 03:54 PM | Updated as of Dec 22 2021 08:55 PM

A Philippine Airlines plane is seen at the background as a man uses his phone at the arrival area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Pasay City on May 24, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
A Philippine Airlines plane is seen at the background as a man uses his phone at the arrival area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Pasay City on May 24, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — Philippine Airlines on Thursday said it would increase flights in several domestic routes as "revenge travel" defied the threat of the newly discovered omicron COVID-19 variant. 

Omicron did not prompt significant cancellation of flight bookings with PAL, even as the variant spread globally, ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, said the flag carrier's spokesperson Cielo Villaluna. 

"Walang impact po itong banta ng variant na ito sapagkat hindi po pumapasok sa Pilipinas at nariyan ‘yong urge na mag-reunite with their families ika nga, ang ating mga balikbayan, ating mga compatriots na nakatira sa iba’t ibang bansa, gusting-gusto nilang bumalik sa bansa," she said in a televised public briefing. 

(The threat of this variant had no impact because it has not entered the Philippines and there is an urge for people to reunite with their families, and our balikbayans, our compatriots living in other countries, want to return to the country.)

"Ngayon na bumaba na ang alert level, nararamdaman po natin iyong revenge travel from both sectors, the leisure travelers and the returning residents," said the PAL officer, referring to pent-up demand to travel after COVID-19 lockdowns. 

(Now that the alert level has gone down, we feel revenge travel from both sectors, the leisure travelers and the returning residents.)

A "travel surge" has prompted PAL to increase flights in some areas, including the following routes, Villaluna said. 

  •  Manila-Iloilo, 14 flights weekly from the current 9, beginning Dec. 10
  •  Manila-Bacolod, 14 flights from the current 7 weekly, starting Dec. 16
  •  Manila-Basco, 4 flights for December 
  •  Manila-General Santos 6-7 flights weekly
  •  Manila-Davao and Tagbilaran, 14 flights weekly

Villaluna said PAL is now operating 120 flights daily, about 40 percent of its 300 flights every day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 
 
"Meron nang (there are already) signs of recovery... We’re hoping and praying that the situation will remain the same and even improve through time," she said. 
 
Government and the aviation sector are working together to prepare for omicron, she added. 

"Naniniwala po tayo na iyong existing protocols in terms of quarantine, testing, and arrival procedures ay bastante and are strong enough to ward off the variant," Villaluna said. 

(We believe the existing protocols in terms of quarantine, testing, and arrival procedures are enough and strong enough to ward off the variant.) 

The Philippines has not yet detected any case of omicron, which the World Health Organization classified as a variant of concern. The WHO said while omicron was likely more transmissible than previous variants, it was "highly unlikely" to completely evade vaccine protection. 

Video courtesy of PTV