Airlines want cap on int'l arrivals raised, shorter quarantine for vaccinated passengers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 22)— The country's airlines are seeking changes to restrictions on travelers in a bid to help usher in their recovery amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air on separate occasions supported bumping up the current limit of 2,000 international passenger arrivals per day, given the high demand for Filipinos who want to go home.

"Nakikihati lang ang PAL dun sa 2,000 entry allowance. Eh problema dati bago nagka-pandemya, 40,000 a day lumilipad sa Manila di ba. Ang laki ng nabawas diyan," PAL president and chief operating officer Gilbert Santa Maria said in the recent forum.

[Translation: PAL's just sharing that 2,000 entry allowance. The problem is, before the pandemic 40,000 (people) a day fly into Manila. So much was lost.]

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Cebu Pacific chief strategy officer Alex Reyes shared the same view, also noting the high demand among Filipinos who want to go home.

"We're trying to find ways wherein it's still safe to repatriate the Filipinos back home but operate above this cap so one of the suggestions is can we shorten the quarantine period especially for fully vaccinated individuals," Reyes told CNN Philippines.

Both airlines have proposed shortening mandatory quarantine periods for international passengers who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination.

PAL's proposal entails testing passengers 72 hours before their departure then subjecting them to quarantine, where they will also undergo a RT-PCR test on the third day. They can then exit the quarantine facility on the fifth day if they test negative and continue isolation in their homes.

"Versus the current 10-day quarantine protocol, our new protocol can save our passengers as much as ₱25,000 for this," PAL chief strategy and planning officer Dexter Lee said. This arrangement will also help lower ticket prices given the resulting increase in travelers and free up hotel capacity, he added.

Meanwhile, Reyes cited the experience of Phuket, Thailand where fully inoculated individuals are allowed entry without any mandatory quarantine.

Citing the expensive costs of RT-PCR tests, the Cebu Pacific executive said they are suggesting showing proof of vaccination status instead.

"Our suggestion is that, can the government already loosen things up a bit so that if you're already fully vaccinated, all you need to do is present your vaccination card and you can go in and out of the various LGUs," he said.

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"For the sake of our economy, I beg our decision makers to listen... Set up prudent policies that are very supportive of our economy. Kasi wala namang silbi 'yung maglockdown tayo, zero COVID, pero patay naman ang ekonomiya natin," Santa Maria said.

[Translation: There's no point imposing lockdowns and having zero COVID but our economy is dead.]