Philippines Sets Vaccination Mandate For Unrestricted Air Travel

As of January 17th, only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to take public transportation to, from, and within the national capital region of the Philippines. While there are exceptions to this policy provided, the blanket policy will apply to air travel as well, which would appear to cover a large portion of flights since Manilla is the country’s largest air hub. Let’s look at the policy and how airlines in the country are reacting.

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If the new directive prevents passengers from travel, and the ticket was purchased before January 17th, 2022, for travel between January 17 to January 31, Philippine Airlines will allow for booking changes or refunds. Philippine Airlines Photo: Airbus

Vaccination mandate for all public transportation

The Philippines’ Department of Transportation recently issued Department Order No. 2022 – 001, which states that only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to take public transportation to, from, and within the country’s NCR – or National Capital Region. Also referred to as ‘Metro Manila,’ the National Capital Region encompasses the major city of Manila but also extends to urban areas north and south of the capital city.

With the announcement made on January 11th, the government hasn’t given much time for those affected to prepare. Coming into full efect by Monday, January 17th, the six days of advance notice was “to give a little leeway and to allow people to prepare,” Transportation Department Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. said in a statement.

“This [Department Order] shall cover public transportation for individuals who reside outside NCR but who work and/or travel to the same,” – Department Order No. 2022 – 001

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The order only applies to the NCR area of the Philippines. Photo: Getty Images

The Department of Transportation has allowed for two main exceptions to the mandate:

  • Persons with medical conditions that prevent full COVID-19 vaccination “as evidenced by a duly-signed medical certificate with name and contact details of the physician.”
  • Individuals procuring essential goods and services such as food, water, and medicine “as evidenced by a duly issued barangay health pass or other appropriate proof to support and justify such travel”

Philippine Airlines will allow travelers to rebook

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines says that it is only allowed to accept fully vaccinated passengers for carriage on its domestic flights to and from Manila as of January 17th. This distinction between domestic and international flights gets slightly confusing when you consider the fact that the NCR is the primary gateway for flights in and out of the country.

At the same time the language conained within the government order doesn’t make any distinction between domestic or international flights- only that it applies to travel to, from, and within the NCR. Given this language, we would have to assume that flights in and out of the capital’s Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport will require proof of vaccination.

This point will become moot as the airline states on its website that proof of full vaccination shall be made a requirement for entry of all foreign nationals allowed to enter the Philippines beginning February 16th.

Giving some flexibility to travelers adversely affected by the new policy, the airline states that travelers have the following options if they purchased a ticket prior to January 17th for travel between January 17 and January 31. “Your ticket is safe and remains valid, and you may avail of the following options:”

  1. Convert your ticket to Travel Credits equivalent to the unused base fare of your ticket. Voucher validity is one year (1) year from date of issuance.
  2. Rebook or Reroute your ticket to another flight with available space within 60 days from the original flight in the same cabin class.
  3. Refund ticket without penalties, excluding Ticketing Service Charge.
Philippine Airlines Airbus A350
Philippine Airlines is the main long-haul carrier of the country. Photo: Airbus

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AirAsia publicly states compliance

Responding to the new government policy, AirAsia Philippines noted in a statement that it “will abide by and implement the Department Order 2022-001 issued by the Department of Transportation.”

“From the onset of the pandemic, AirAsia has always been working closely with the [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases], [Department of Transportation] and its attached agencies along with medical experts in the implementation of multi-layered approaches to safety in the aviation sector,”– Ricky Isla, CEO, AirAsia Philippines

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AirAsia Philippines publicly supported the mandate in a statement on its website. Photo: AirAsia

The budget airline’s statement also brings attention to the exemptions provided by the mandate. AirAsia Philippines confirms that non-vaccinated guests with medical exemptions or essential-purpose travel from Metro Manila will still be allowed to fly, “provided that they present a duly signed medical certificate with name and contact details of their physician.”

What do you think of this new mandate? And will you be impacted by it? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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