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Three local airlines lift mask mandate during flights

Local Airlines

THREE major local airlines have announced that pursuant to the order issued by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. lifting the COVID-19 public health emergency status in the country, they will no longer be requiring the wearing of face masks for their passengers during flights.

Cebu Pacific (CEB) spokesperson Carmina Romero said that the mask mandate in their aircraft had also been lifted effective July 24, 2023 but just the same, passengers are still advised to continue practicing minimum health standards such as washing of hands, disinfecting and physical distancing, when necessary.

“Passengers are also encouraged to check-in online to maintain contactless flight procedures and avoid queuing in the airport check-in counters. Go straight to gate or proceed to our self-bag tag kiosks before dropping bags off. For questions or concerns, passengers can send a message to Charlie the Chatbot via Messenger,” she said.

Similarly, Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it welcomes the lifting of the mask mandate and other COVID protocols, giving passengers the flexibility of choice.

PAL spokesperson Ma. Cielo Villaluna said: “This is a significant sign of the normalization of air travel and proof that the Philippines is open for business and tourism. We assure that despite the removal of existing COVID-19 protocols, we will continue to observe safety procedures such as disinfection of aircraft surfaces after every flight and the use of HEPA filters and an advanced air flow system inside the aircraft cabin to help mitigate any potential health risks.”

Villaluna said that PAL will continue to comply with any COVID-related regulation imposed by specific countries.

AirAsia Philippines, on the other hand, has announced that wearing face masks shall no longer be implemented on all domestic flights but for international destinations, it shall remain subject to the existing health protocols in the destination country, adding that Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have lifted the face mask requirement as early as the first quarter of 2023.

Country head for communications and public affairs and spokesperson Steve Dailisan said that despite dropping the face mask policy, “AirAsia remains committed to adhering to the highest standards of safety among all its flights and that deep cleaning and aircraft sanitation will still be in effect on every after flight so that guests will have peace of mind and confidence as air travel returns to normalcy.”

“There is no room for complacency in the airline business. We want our guests to feel secure when they fly with AirAsia. Although it is no longer a policy, guests, and crew may still opt to wear face masks whenever they deem necessary. However, we also want to reiterate that our aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which filter and block 99.97% of airborne particles including known bacteria and viruses,” Dailisan added.

The lifting of the state of public health emergency is contained in Presidential Proclamation 297 and is backed by Department Order 2023-017 of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Itchie G. Cabayan
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