As the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines continues to show signs of improvement, the country's aviation and tourism sector are now raring for clearer skies ahead in anticipation of "revenge travel," or a rebound in the number of travellers due to a release of pent-up demand.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Dec. 9 announced that it will increase domestic flights due to an expected “travel surge” in several areas, especially that the country has yet to detect the Omicron variant and especially that the holidays are drawing near.
“Walang impact itong banta ng variant sapagkat di pa ito pumapasok sa Pilipinas,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in a Laging Handa briefing. “Nariyan iyong urge na mag-reunite with families, iyong ating mga balikbayan, compatriots.”
With an expected rebound, PAL has added more flights in the following routes:
- Manila to Iloilo, 14 flights weekly from nine, starting Dec. 10
- Manila to Bacolod, 14 flights from seven, starting Dec. 16
- Manila to Basco, four flights for December
- Manila to General Santos, six to seven flights weekly
- Manila to Davao and Tagbilaran, 14 flights weekly
Villaluna said these “revenge travels” will be fueled by the recovery of leisure and business travel as the country's lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
To date, Villaluna said PAL is now operating 120 flights daily, 40% of its 300 daily flight capacity pre-pandemic.
"Mayroon nang signs of recovery,” she said. “We’re hoping and praying that the situation will remain the same and even improve through time.”
New aircraft, less footprint
Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, has upgraded its fleet in preparation for higher flight demand.
It has already received its Airbus A330neo plane, which can have more passengers and less carbon footprint. By the end of the year, the company said it is set to have a total of six new aircrafts.
“We are among the few airlines in the world and the only one in the Philippines to take deliveries during a pandemic,” Cebu Pacific’s head of strategy Alex Reyes said in a statement.
The budget carrier has also increased its Manila to Boracay and Cebu to Manila daily flights from nine to 11 this month. Cagayan de Oro daily flights are now at seven to five, while Manila to Davao flights are at five from three.
It has also resumed some of its international flights:
- Fukuoka, Japan - every Tuesday starting Dec. 7
- Bangkok, Thailand - every Thursday and Saturday, starting Dec. 11
- Taipei, Taiwan - every Wednesday, starting Dec. 15
Slow and responsible
Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat expressed optimism about the “slow but sure and responsible” recovery.
“We, in the DOT, believe that our days of despair are over as we’ve seen many encouraging signs in the last few weeks,” Romulo-Puyat said during Cebu Pacific’s stakeholder event last Dec. 7.
AirAsia Philippines has also resumed its Manila to Hong Kong route since Dec. 5 after nearly two years of flight suspension.
“We at AirAsia Philippines are glad that we get to help Filipino families reunite this Christmas season,” AirAsia Philippines spokesman Steve Dailisan said in a statement. "We are optimistic that despite the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, air travel will continue to grow in service of Filipinos thriving abroad as we learn more on how to safely and effectively live in our constantly changing reality."
The Department of Health (DOH) on Dec. 6 gave the country a “minimal risk” classification for COVID-19, as its average daily attack rate, or the number of those who get ill after exposure, is now less than one per 100,000 people.
The DOH also recorded 356 new infections on Dec. 7, the lowest since the 294 new infections last July 2, 2020, in a days-long trend of below 1000 fresh cases daily.
Back in November, BusinessWorld reported that some hospitality groups have likewise been expecting an increase in revenge travel.