Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL) have cancelled local flights in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order closing the island of Boracay in Aklan province. Cebu Pacific's flight cancellations will take effect beginning April 26 until October 27, 2018, while those of PAL will be suspended from April 20 to October 27, 2018.
In a statement, cebu Pacifc, the airline owned and operated by the JG Summit Holdings Inc., said it is canceling most of its daily flight between Manila and Caticlan (16 flights) as well as between Manila and Kalibo (four flights). Both localities are in Aklan province, and are the usual aviation gateways to tourists travelling to and from Boracay island.
Also canceled were Cebu-Caticlan-Cebu (two flights), Caticlan-Clark-Caticlan (two flights), Manila-Kalibo (one flight), Kalibo-Cebu (two flights), Cebu-Kalibo-Cebu (two flights), Clark-Kalibo (one flight), Kalibo-Clark (one flight) and Kalibo-Incheon-Kalibo (four flights, two of which start on June 1).
The airline will, however, maintain a lean schedule of flights to and from Kalibo and Caticlan “to serve local residents and ensure the continuity of commerce in Northern Panay island.”
PAL meanwhile said it is scaling down its services to Kailbo and Caticlan but will increase expand flights to other local tourist and provincial destinations "to help ensure the continued growth of domestic tourism."
PAL said it would continue to operate nine weekly flights between Manila and Kalibo (PR2969 and 2970) and seven weekly flights (PR2041 / 2042) between Manila and Caticlan. All other Caticlan and Kalibo flights from Manila will be suspended from April 20 to October 27, 2018 while flights to Caticlan from Cebu and Clark will be suspended from April 26 to October 27, 2018.
The flag carrier added that it would deploy additional flights on routes between Manila and Cebu, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa and Bacolod starting April 20; between Cebu and Busuanga (Coron), Cebu and Siargao as well as between Clark and Busuanga starting April 26; between Cebu and Clark starting April 28; and between Manila and Dumaguete as well as Manila and Cagayan de Oro starting May 1.
Both Cebu Pacific and PAL have offered options to affected passengers. Cebu Pacific has advised its clients that they can get a full refund, place the value of the ticket in a travel fun for future use, rebook the flight or reroute to any domestic destination (both of which are subject to seat availability), while PAL said its passengers can rebook / reroute / refund their flights with penalties and charges waived. Rerouting options cover both domestic and international routes.
"Boracay is a national treasure," said PAL President Jaime J. Bautista. “We fully support the government's intention to make Boracay fully safe and environmentally friendly. Sustainable development is of critical concern, and we are one with the laudable goal to revert the island to a balanced eco-tourism paradise. We seek the understanding of our passengers as your flag carrier and the aviation industry cooperate in this multi-sectoral endeavor. In the long-term, a safe and revitalized Boracay will benefit all stakeholders in the travel and tourism sectors, and the Filipino people as a whole.”
President Duterte ordered the closure of the country’s number one tropical tourist destination based on an interagency proposal from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Tourism and Department of Interior and Local Government.
According to the Malay Municipal Tourism Office, over two million tourists visited Boracay in 2017, the highest ever in the island’s history. The number is 16 percent higher than the 1.7 million tourists recorded in 2016.
Entrepreneur Philippines is published by Summit Media which is owned and managed by some members of the Gokongwei family that are also major shareholders of Cebu Air Inc., the listed company that runs Cebu Pacific.
Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Entrepreneur Philippines