PAL and CEB announce ‘new normal’ for their passengers

FLYING will never be the same again, at least for the next couple of years or so.

In the case of our two leading local airline companies, for instance, there will definitely be new rules and policies that will be implemented if and when the time comes that normal flights finally resume operation. Ditto with the NAIA Terminals where mandatory procedures have also been put in place on orders of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal.

Ma. Cielo Villaluna and Ma. Rosario Lagamon, spokespersons of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific (CEB), respectively, both said that for one, the wearing of face masks will now be mandatory among all passengers as part of safety protocols against COVID-19, from the moment they enter the airport up to the time they are boarded and even for the entire duration of the flight.

Both also said social distancing will be strictly observed when queuing in check-in counters, boarding and even while inside the aircraft.

Both PAL and CEB had also announced that their cabin crew will be donning personal protective equipment (PPEs) even as High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor (HEPA) filters that are capable of filtering microscopic bacteria and virus clusters, including the Novel CoronaVirus Disease 2019, with 99.99 percent efficiency, similar to what is used in hospital operating rooms, will be used inside their planes.

In the case of CEB, Lagamon said they will no longer be selling or serving food inside the aircraft like they used to, so as to eliminate the need to remove the face masks during flight.  She also advised all passengers to check in for their flights online for quicker processing, given the extra security measures now in place inside the airports.

Lagamon also said that apart from senior citizens or persons with disability and the like, passengers are advised to put their own handcarry bags inside the overhead bins so that only they get to touch their own bags.

On the part of PAL meanwhile, Villaluna said that passengers are advised to be at the airport four hours before their slated flight if travelling international and three hours for those flying domestic. Before the lockdown, passengers of international flights needed to be at the airport three hours prior while those traveling domestic, two hours before their scheduled flight.

Villaluna assured that even while it may not be financially viable, social distancing will be enforced in its fights.

In terms of food service, Villaluna said that instead of the usual ala carte business dining where serving of food is done one at a time for its business class passengers, PAL will now implement an ‘all-in-one’ tray setup wherein all the food ---appetizer, main course, dessert and drinks—will be served all at once. For economy passengers, she said it would be the usual tray set up.

All domestic and international flights remain cancelled from May 16 to 31, 2020 in line with the implementation of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) over Metro Manila.  

It will be recalled that President Duterte had ordered a stop to all flights, initially on March 15, after which it was extended, with inbound flights limited only to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and repatriated Filipinos from abroad and those bringing medical supplies.

Once normal flight operations resume and even as of this writing, stricter quarantine and testing procedures are applied for all international passengers arriving in the Philippines.

Villaluna said in a travel advisory that under a new directive from the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, all passengers will undergo upon arrival a swab test (RT PCR COVID 19 testing) to be performed by trained personnel from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). While awaiting test results, passengers must stay either in a government-designated stringent quarantine facility or in a BOQ-approved quarantine hotel.

Payment for accommodation in any government-designated quarantine facility shall be based on the following guidelines: for land-based OFWs, the cost shall be shouldered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration while for  sea-based OFWs, cost shall be shouldered by the Maritime Industry Authority or by the local manning agency.

All other travelers (Filipino or foreign nationals) who are non-OFWs, will pay for the cost of their accommodation in a BOQ-approved quarantine hotel.  Travelers whose test results are positive will be transferred to a designated hospital for further medical management while those who testednegative will be allowed to move out and undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or at an appropriate local monitoring facility. For more details and information on these new requirements and related concerns, you may call the government's One Stop Shop hotline number +63 9161019964.

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