Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport has begun to unwind a temporary ban on international arrivals. The relaxation of the ban has seen both commercial and charter flights allowed to touch down since Monday. But for folks used to crowds and chaos at Manila’s notoriously bad airport, it won’t be business as usual. Instead, it’s just a gentle ramp-up in services throughout May.
Manila’s Airport re-opened on Monday
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) permitting selected inbound international flights on specific days pending clearance from both the CAAP and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Starting on May 11, inbound international charter and commercial flights landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will have assigned days,” the NOTAM said.
In-bound international charters will be allowed to land on Mondays and Thursdays. Other days will be reserved for commercial passenger services. While passenger numbers on the chartered flights are uncapped, daily international arrivals are capped at just 400 passengers on the other days.
Flights need to be approved 48 hours in advance, and this regime will operate through to June 10.
Philippine Airlines plans to resume flights on the weekend
It follows the halting of all international arrivals at Manila’s primary airport on May 3 in an attempt to impede the spread of coronavirus in The Philippines. The country’s national carrier, Philippine Airlines has canceled all international and domestic flights through to Friday, May 15. At the time of writing, the airline does plan on resuming flights on May 16.
“However, we caution you that these plans are highly subject to change, depending on COVID-19 conditions: the duration of community quarantines, the status of travel bans and restrictions imposed by various governments and their impact on passenger demand, and above all on the public health and safety situation in each of the countries that PAL serves,” advises Philippine Airlines.
Unaffected by the restrictions now imposed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport are domestic flights, emergency flights, cargo flights, medical flights, government and military flights, weather mitigation flights, and maintenance and utility flights.
“The restrictions, which will last a month, from May 11 to June 10, is going to be implemented in NAIA only, with other international airports in the country having their separate restrictions,” the NOTAM said.
Multiple repatriation flights from LAX canceled
The closure of the airport for the week caused Philippines Airlines to cancel the special repatriation flights it was planning to operate over that time. The airline had six flights operating between Los Angeles and Manila over the period. The flights were only open to Filipino nationals/Philippine passport holders, their foreign spouses and children, and accredited officials of foreign governments and international organizations. Philippine Airlines has not yet announced replacement repatriation flights.
Concurrent with re-opening Manila Airport, the Philippine Government is enacting a raft of strict biosecurity protocols for all in-coming arrivals, including Filipinos. All incoming passengers will be tested and sent to government-designated quarantine facilities pending the result. Passengers who test positive will be moved to an appropriate health facility. Passengers who test negative must undergo a 14-day quarantine at home period.
The strategy is to keep Filipinos safe while maintaining some global connectivity. It’s by no means an ideal solution, but like every other country, The Philippines must juggle competing interests and priorities. However, it might be a while until the chaos at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport gets back to normal.