STOCK Philippines Airlines
The bankruptcy at Philippine Airlines has come at a most unfortunate time for Filipino residents in the UAE and Gulf. Services to their home country are still severely curtailed and rates are stuck on a high. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Chances of airline ticket rates on the UAE-Manila sector shooting up are high as part of the fallout from Philippine Airlines’ bankruptcy proceedings. The flagship airline is mulling cutting its long-distance routes - and those to the UAE could be high on that list.

PAL, which uses Airbus A330 jets for the Gulf routes, plans to reduce this fleet from 15 to eight aircraft. “As it cuts back, it is inevitable operations to the Gulf will be smaller,” said Brendan Sobie, an aviation analyst.

Travel agencies said this could translate to limited flight options and higher fares on a route already bogged down by COVID-19 restrictions. While commercial flights to Dubai are on, one may end up splurging between Dh8,000-Dh10,000 to fly to Manila on one of the ‘Bayanihan’ special flights.

Sobie added that for PAL, flights to London, New York and Toronto are “likely to go entirely”.

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Failed project

Given the high number of Filipino expats in UAE, it is surprising that PAL and even low-cost rival Cebu Pacific have failed to make significant inroads into the market. “There is a huge Filipino community in the Gulf which in theory can support a large number of flights from Philippine carriers,” said Sobie. “But, the Gulf carriers have been aggressive at carrying this segment as well, often well below cost, as they have the advantage of also carrying other types of traffic on flights to the Philippines.

“PAL has traditionally had a much higher cost base than Cebu Pacific. Its cost base will be reduced as part of its restructuring, but it will continue to be very hard to compete with the Gulf carriers as they are deep-pocketed and enjoy economies of scale due to their size.”

Along with Etihad airways and Cebu, PAL is operating special flights from UAE in September as part of the Bayanihan repatriation run. “It's hard to tell at this point how much could be cut,” said Sobie. “Cebu and PAL would continue to serve the UAE. Most of the other Philippines-Gulf routes have been marginal for some time, and some of these were already dropped before Covid.”

Emirates flights

Emirates airline on Wednesday said it resumed scheduled passenger services to Manila, Clark and Cebu. The airline has seven weekly services to and from Manila, while five weekly flights to Clark and twice weekly flights to Cebu are available for Filipinos and foreign nationals.

As per booking websites, Emirates flights are only available from Manila to Dubai and fares can be over Dh1,400. In addition to the commercial flights, Emirates will be operating special Bayanihan flights (EK332) on September 18 and 25, to provide additional capacity for citizens wishing to fly home from the UAE.

Only Filipino citizens in the UAE will be eligible to book seats on the special flights, and the following requirements will apply:

• All passengers must present a negative RT-PCR result, taken 48 hours prior to boarding.

• A 10-day facility-based quarantine, with the date of arrival being the first day, will be applicable to all passengers, followed by a four-day home-based quarantine. Allocations of quarantine facilities at designated hotels will be coordinated by Emirates along with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and/or the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Cebu cancels

Cebu recently canceled several flights on the Dubai-Manila route, citing restrictions imposed by Dubai’s Civil Aviation Authority. “The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has restricted the number of passengers for the Dubai-Manila route for September,” said the airline in an advisory.

The cancellations includes Manila-Dubai flights from September 16 to September 29 and Dubai-Manila flights from September 15 to September 30.