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PAL asks for increase in arrivals quota to fly home stranded passengers in HK

18 May 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

PAL says it will start regular weekly flights out of HK from tomorrow, May 19

Philippine Airlines said it is asking the Civil Aeronautics Board to increase arrival levels at Ninoy Aquino International Airport so it could fly home all its passengers stranded in Hong Kong.

PAL’s corporate communications chief Ma. Cielo Villaluna, also told The SUN on Monday, May 17, that they would work on getting the hundreds of Filipino workers holding the airline’s canceled tickets booked in their future flights as soon as possible.

The Consulate's assistance to nationals section has managed to get approval earlier from the government's Inter-Agency Task Force through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to fly home more than 300 stranded passengers via two PAL flights last month.


ATN chief Consul Paulo Saret said they again tried to get an additional quota for two PAL flights this month, but no such permission was given for the one leaving on Wednesday, May 19, so only those who had booked seats directly with the airline would be able to leave on this day.

"We were not given authority for the additional 200 seats on that flight, as the quarantine centers in Manila are still congested due to the new quarantine protocol (10 days instead of 7) imposed by Philippine authorities," said Saret.

"However, I was informed by PAL that they will still fly home to Manila those originally booked for that flight."

Pindutin para sa detalye

Villaluna also said that starting from Wednesday, May 19, PAL will fly from Hong Kong once a week. In previous months, the national flag carrier operated only two flights per month to Hong Kong.

The weekly flight will be scheduled every Wednesday, and will leave Hong Kong at 11:25 a.m. All inbound flights will only carry cargo, while Hong Kong’s flight ban on the Philippines which was enforced on Apr 20, remains in effect.

The SUN wrote to PAL’s head office in Manila last Friday to call the airline’s attention to the more than 400 Filipino workers who have been marooned in Hong Kong for several months now due to the carrier’s repeated cancellations of their bookings.

Call now!

The workers, who have run out of money paying rent on rooms, visa extension, food and other daily needs while having no income due to legal restrictions, have been desperately calling on the Consulate and other government agencies to bring them home.

Some stranded passengers decided to book with other airlines so they could leave

They said they have been skipping meals and rely only on dole-outs from support groups and individuals to survive. A few lucky ones managed to fly home after their kindly employers or other donors booked them on other airlines.

Villaluna admitted the backlog dates back to early 2021 due to the flight cancellations.


“Even as far back as last year, the passenger arrival cap [was low,] but not as low as current levels,” the PAL official said. 

“Our Legal Department has reached out to the Civil Aeronautics Board to increase the arrival levels. We are one with everyone’s aspiration to increase the number of allowable passengers so our kababayans can come home,” she said. 

Villaluna said CAB is the agency designated to implement and enforce the Manila arrival limits, along with the Manila International Airport Authority. However, the limits are set by the IATF which gives overall directions on the government’s pandemic response.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

In an earlier message, Villaluna said there were several reasons why there are many stranded PAL Manila-bound passengers in Hong Kong.

First, she cited the Hong Kong government’s ban on all flights from the Philippines which took effect on Apr 20. 

Secondly, she said there is only one PAL flight between Manila and Hong Kong per week, compared with pre-pandemic levels when the national flag carrier flew 28 flights weekly. 

“This is due to the Philippines’ government-imposed passenger arrival cap set at 2,000 passengers per day into Manila for all routes and all airlines combined, i.e., the 2,000 passenger limit is shared among different airlines including PAL,” Villaluna said. 

Cielo Villaluna says PAL must comply with government  restrictions 
She explained that PAL has to spread a limited passenger quota among its entire network of nearly 50 weekly flights from 23 cities in Asia, the Middle East, the United States, Canada and Guam.

“Thus, (unlike other airlines that do not have multiple routes and flights to Manila) PAL was forced to cancel hundreds of flights from different routes,” Villaluna said.  

“We have been appealing for the authorities to increase PAL’s Manila arrival allocation because there are thousands of affected passengers, not just in Hong Kong, but all over the world.

“Philippine Airlines has the aircraft and the crews ready to operate more flights and fly more passengers home to the Philippines. However, we have to comply with government restrictions intended to curb the pandemic,” the executive said.

Passengers whose flights had been cancelled due to the government restrictions have the option to rebook or refund their tickets or convert their tickets into a travel voucher, Villaluna said. 

However, travel agents in Hong Kong say they have been told by PAL officials that passengers have to wait at least a year to get a refund of their cancelled tickets.

One agent even said the least PAL could do is to give a replacement booking for a passenger whose flight was canceled instead of leaving their customers to their own devices, and charging them for a rebooking each time.

Unable to get an immediate refund for their canceled PAL ticket, many passengers get stuck, as they no longer have any money left to buy a new ticket with another airline.

Some of the stranded passengers also ask why airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Cathay Pacific Airways have rarely canceled flights to and from Manila, even if there are only a few people on board when they fly.


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