Among the restrictions in the 30-day community quarantine that Metro Manila is currently under is that “Land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended after the expiration of 48 hours from issuance of this Resolution.” As a result, domestic flights have already been cancelled, adding to the cancelled international flights to other countries affected by the pandemic.
With the popularity of promos on lower fares for advanced bookings, many Filipinos have already purchased airline tickets way in advance, and are now wondering whether they can refund or rebook those flights.
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Former Department of Trade and Industry Consumer Protection Group (DTI-CPG) Undersecretary Atty. Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba who now heads consumer rights group Laban Konsumer Inc. (LKI) says that airlines have offered free rebooking and refunds. This is a development that LKI welcomes, and have recognized as part of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights. “For assistance, the airline’s consumer welfare desks can help or if need be, the Civil Aeronautics Board,” he says, adding that the LKI can intercede if needed. “For now, prudence means to postpone travel plans.”
Cebu Pacific has already released their guidelines in relation to COVID-19 cancellations. “With force majeure incidents, we advise our passengers of these three options: they can rebook their flights, they can avail of full refunds, or the full cost of their tickets can be put in a travel fund which is basically like a credit account with the airlines,” explains Cebu Pacific corporate communications director Charo Logarta Lagamon.
Ordinarily, flights booked on the Cebu Pacific Piso Fare promo may only be rebooked or refunded if the passenger has availed of the CEB-flexi add on, which allows for up to two times for up to two hours prior to the departure time of the original flight. In a statement released by the company in light of the lockdown, passengers traveling to domestic and international destinations from March 10 to April 30, 2020 can rebook their flights free of charge. Those booking flights on the said dates may also avail of CEB Flexi add-on for free, allowing them to change their travel dates up to two times. Customers can also avail of the “Travel Fund” feature, which lets passengers store the value of the ticket for future use. The Travel Fund can be redeemed within 180 days and “can be used for bookings as far as 12 months out.”
Those who are flying in and out of Manila airports before the government-set March 15 deadline do not need to worry, Lagamon adds. “There have been measures in place as part of our standard procedures, and we have been more vigilant with some of these processes including thorough disinfection of the aircraft. Now we have extra steps such as a deep disinfection that lasts up to four hours per aircraft, done by a set of professionals who are trained especially for disinfecting aircraft according to standards set by the World Health Organization.”
As its response to the domestic travel ban, Philippine Airlines has also announced that its passengers with trips to and from Metro Manila—from March 15 to April 14, 2020—may rebook, refund, or reroute their flights.
PAL says its passengers who are affected may rebook their flight to a new travel date after April 14, 2020, with waivers of rebooking fees, full-cost refunds of the tickets, or reroutes under the same fare class. "For holders of tickets issued by travel agents, please contact or visit the nearest partner travel agency of PAL for your rebooking needs," the flagship carrier says in a statement.
They are also intent on providing safe flights to those still leaving Manila. “At the airport, preventive measures are in place. We work closely with the Bureau of Quarantine to ensure that our passengers get screened via thermal imagery scanning. For departing passengers, PAL has taken measures to get their temperature readings. At the check-in counters, we have sanitizers in place. Airport authorities have also positioned sanitizers in key locations at the airport,” says Cielo Villaluna, PAL Spokesperson. She adds that cabins are subjected to disinfection using high-grade industrial disinfectants. “The interior of the cabin—seats, windows, galleys, lavatories—go through this intensive process. Our cargo hold is disinfected as well as passenger luggage before these are loaded off the aircraft. Our cabin crew wear face masks in all phases of the flight and gloves at specific phases of the flight. Our planes have hepa filters which purify the air inside the cabin.”
The airline assured international and domestic flights with routes to and from Cebu, Clark and Davao will continue. “We also continue to cooperate with health authorities in providing essential information in the name of public health and the national interest,” Villaluna assures.
Air Asia has just released its statement following the cancellation of Manila flights. “AirAsia is making provisions for guests affected by the flight cancellations and travel restrictions following the Philippine government’s latest directive, as follows:
1. Move flight: One-time flight change to a new travel date on the same route within 90 calendar days from the original flight time without additional cost, subject to seat availability; OR
2. Credit account: Retain the value of your fare in your AirAsia BIG Loyalty account for future travel with AirAsia. The online credit account is to be redeemed for booking within 180 calendar days from the issuance date for your travel with us. The actual travel dates can be after the expiry date as long as our flight schedule is out; OR
3. Full refund: Obtain a full refund to your original payment method for the amount equivalent to your booking.”
According to the Air Asia statement, all affected guests will be promptly notified via email or SMS. “AirAsia strongly encourages guests to update their contact details using the “My Bookings” feature on airasia.com to ensure that they receive timely notifications. Flights not bound for Manila out of other AirAsia’s hubs in the Philippines--Clark, Cebu, and Kalibo--will continue their normal operations. Guests may check on their flights via the “Flight Status” function on the airasia.com website and mobile app.”
As flights from other Philippine airports continue, AirAsia says that it assures that the safety and wellbeing of their guests and Allstars is their top priority. “AirAsia is complying with advice and regulations from the local government, civil aviation authorities, global and local health agencies, including the World Health Organization.”
For PAL inquiries, call their Reservations Hotline (+63 2) 8855 8888, or visit the nearest PAL ticketing office or log on to the ManageMyBookingPortal at Philippineairlines.com. For Cebu Pacific rebooking, refund, or flight credits, visit CebuPacific.Com or their official social media accounts for updates. AirAsia passengers can view an up-to-date status of their refund requests by logging on to their BIG Member Account on airasia.com and visit support.airasia.com to speak to AVA for 24/7 assistance. They may likewise reach AirAsia Philippines’ emergency hotline at (02)8722-2742
Banner photo by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News