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Airlines Add Flights For New Year’s Celebrations

Airlines Add Flights For New Year’s Celebrations
Passengers queue at the check-in counters of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City on Nov. 27, 2021 for their flights. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

Airlines have increased their flights to accommodate travelers who may want to celebrate the New Year somewhere else in the country.

In the Philippines, there are also passengers who want to go home to their provinces and spend the holidays there.

“They can actually still book their flights leading towards the New Year…for example, Caticlan, it's still available,” Steve Dailisan, AirAsia Philippines spokesperson, told “Agenda” on One News on Monday, Dec. 27. Caticlan in Malay, Aklan is one of entry points to the famous Boracay Island.

According to Dailisan, AirAsia’s passengers book from zero to 20 days before their flights due to the changes in health and travel protocols every 15 days. The situation remains fluid due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, as the Philippines started to relax restrictions amid the declining number of COVID infections, a new highly transmissible variant called Omicron was detected in South Africa. The country has a total of four Omicron cases as of Monday.

The spokesperson advised the public to book their flights at least within this time frame.

“So, that's still the booking behavior, but yes, you can still travel, you can still book your flights, you can still fly to your destinations because we've already ramped up our frequencies for the holidays,” he pointed out.

Dailisan said the airline is doing its best to restore its service in Typhoon Odette-hit areas as some of these destinations are still run by generators.

“It's still very challenging, especially for our destinations badly affected by Typhoon Odette such as Puerto Princesa, Cebu and Bohol,” he admitted.

Despite the onslaught of Odette, Dailisan disclosed that, to date, AirAsia was able to reach its highest load factor – or passengers flying into the different destinations – to 91% to 95% and it is still improving.

“We hope that we will be able to reach the maximum as we end 2021 and add up more frequencies in the coming 2022,” he said.

Dailisan stressed that travelers should allot three to four hours when going to the airports and make use of contactless solutions to avoid being caught up in long lines.

“We have to accept that traffic is building up, not just within the airport vicinity but the roads leading to the airports,” he said.

He urged the passengers to use AirAsia’s mobile application for contactless transactions. “Download AirAsia Super App on your Android or IOS and check-in online so that you wouldn't be caught up in long lines or queuing.”

Dailisan bared that AirAsia is also planning to do away with boarding passes by the first quarter of 2022 where passengers would be asked instead to take a selfie and upload national identification card (ID) or passport.

He also said the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, of which Air Asia is a member, has already lobbied to increase the cap for foreign arrivals “so that we may be able to maximize also our fleet and our frequency.”

As there has been a slight uptick recently in the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, he expressed optimism that the current cap for foreign arrivals will change by January.

360 flights canceled due to Odette

Meanwhile, Carmina Romero, spokesperson of Cebu Pacific Air, bared that there are still some canceled flights going to and from Cebu until Dec. 31 although its operation is already back to normal as of Monday afternoon.

Romero assured the public that they will continue to monitor the situation in some of the Odette-affected areas like Cebu as they are now “working towards stabilizing our operations.”

According to Romero, more than 360 flights have been canceled since Odette struck on Dec. 16, affecting about 55,000 passengers.

Romero said Cebu Pacific is doing all that it can – such as offering flexible options – to prioritize these passengers and to make flights convenient for them.

If the flight is canceled, Romero noted that their passengers can either rebook their flights within 60 days with no additional costs as fare difference is waived, or drag it to their travel fund.

Passengers can also opt for a refund within 60 days, Romero said.

“Thankfully, within a week, last week, we resumed our flights to major tourist destinations like Bohol, Caticlan,” she added.

According to Romero, Cebu Pacific will continue focusing on domestic capacity next year. “We will continue ramping up our domestic frequencies like Boracay – we now fly 11 times daily... Bacolod, 16 times weekly.”

Cebu Pacific also hopes to resume its flights to international destinations like Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh, and Macau in 2022 as these had to stop them because of the pandemic.

On Dec. 8, Cebu Pacific announced it would have more flights for holiday travels. It said it would fly to 47 domestic and 14 international routes. Aside from increased flights, Cebu Pacific also started flying to Fukuoka, Bangkok and Taipei starting Dec .7, 11 and 15 respectively.