Manila airport. Image Credit: Gulf News File

Dubai: Regular commercial flights between the UAE and Philippines will remain restricted until July 15, following the announcement by the Philippine government on Tuesday to “extend the ban on travelers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman and the UAE until July 15.”

Repatriation flights organised by the Philippine missions in the UAE and private companies, however, will not be affected by these travel restrictions. Emirates and Etihad too will continue to operate flights to and from Manila, but only for transiting passengers from non-restricted countries.

‘Until further notice’

Etihad, meanwhile, told Gulf News: “In line with the latest directives issued by the government of the Philippines, passengers from the UAE and Oman will not be accepted for travel to Manila (MNL) until further notice, with the exemption of Filipino citizens who are part of the government repatriation programme. This is in addition to the current ban on travel from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to the Philippines.”

“Etihad will continue to operate flights to Manila carrying transiting passengers from non-restricted countries and flights from Manila with passengers travelling to Abu Dhabi and across our network. These passengers will be subject to acceptance and quarantine conditions,” the Abu Dhabi-based airline added.

Etihad said it “is working closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries. Guests who have purchased their tickets through a travel agent are advised to contact the agency from which they purchased their ticket for assistance.”

“This is an evolving situation and we will update guests as more information becomes available. Etihad regrets any inconvenience caused to its guests by these temporary restrictions,” it added.

Cancelled Cebu Pacific flights

In a separate statement, Cebu Pacific told Gulf News it has cancelled its flights to and from Dubai until July 13.

The following flights will be cancelled during this period, after the Philippine government extended the ban on travelers coming from the UAE, upon the recommendation of the (Philippine) Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF): 5J 14 (Manila- Dubai) from July 5 to 12; 5J 17 (Dubai – Manila) from July 7 to 12; 5J 19 (Dubai – Manila) on July 6, 10 and 13

Cebu Pacific said passengers can avail of “unlimited rebooking with no change fee”. There is also no additional cost as fare difference is waived if travel is within 60 days from original flight date. A minimal fare difference may apply after said period.

PAL and Emirates

A Philippine Airlines (PAL) official in Dubai said flights between Dubai and Manila will remain suspended until July 15 but there is a repatriation flight (PAL flight PR8659) organised by the Philippine missions leaving Dubai on Wednesday (June 30) at 8.50pm carrying an expected 349 passengers.

Meanwhile, Emirates has yet to release an updated statements but earlier said that because of the directive by the Philippine government “passengers whose journey originates from the UAE, including Filipino nationals, will not be accepted for travel to all points in the Philippines.” But flights will continue to operate as scheduled and passengers transiting in Dubai and those returning to the Philippines under the government repatriation programme will be allowed to travel.

Fourth time

This is the fourth time that travel restrictions were imposed by the Philippine government on India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman and the UAE, in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant that first emerged in India, according to Philippine authorities.

The Philippine government had first imposed restrictions on inbound travel from the seven countries from May 15 until May 31. PAL and CebPac then extended the flight cancellation between the UAE and Philippines until June 15, which was again extended until June 30 before Tuesday’s announcement.

Bungled travel plans

The continuing travel disruptions haven taken toll on many Filipino families and individuals.

One family has been stranded in Manila since May 6 and the entry visa of three family members will expire on July 4. “Our flights have been re-scheduled several times and now we need to apply again for the visa of our three kids,” the father told Gulf News.

Thousands of Filipinos have also been stranded in the UAE. According to the Philippine Consulate, the number of applicants who applied for emergency repatriation alone has reached 2,800 in Dubai, excluding Abu Dhabi.

“The Philippine missions in the UAE continue to receive requests for repatriation and the Philippine government is working on all possible options to accommodate these requests in the soonest possible time,” said Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes.

Urgent appeal to Philippine government

Filipino expats in the UAE have been soliciting online signatures asking the Philippine government to lift the travel ban immediately. Malou Prado, managing director of MPQ Travel and Tourism, said: “We fervently hope this travel ban will end soon. Many Filipinos have been severely affected. We have clients who need to go back home for emergency reasons, but cannot travel. We call on the Philippine to lift the travel restrictions. They should consider that the UAE is one of the first countries that implemented aggressive COVID-19 vaccination for residents. Many Filipino travellers from the UAE have already been vaccinated.