‘Less restrictions’ for Christmas: Philippine Airlines supports US visa-free entry to Guam for Filipinos, sees 86% pre-pandemic capacity | News

Philippine Airlines is gearing up for a busy holiday travel season because of fewer COVID-19 restrictions.

And those going to the Philippines from Guam could stretch their budget more as the value of the peso weakened to about P59 against the U.S. dollar.

The airline also supports Guam’s push for a U.S. visa-free entry to Filipinos for tourism and work, according to Israel Fontanilla, the new Philippine Airlines area manager for Guam, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

A Guam visa waiver, which Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero brought up this week in Manila with U.S. officials in the Philippines, will allow Filipinos to enter Guam without a preapproved U.S. visa to visit or be employed under the H-2A or H-2B visa worker programs.

Fontanilla said Philippine Airlines, or PAL, has long been working cooperatively with the Guam Visitors Bureau on the visa waiver program.

“Right now they’re having challenges with securing U.S. visas. From what I heard, if you’re going to do an application now, it’s going to take you next year,” he said during a briefing with Guam media.

The governor met this week with the U.S. State Department officials in Manila, sharing with them the importance of Filipino H-2B workers in building critical military and civilian construction projects on Guam.

Guam seeks to include the Philippines in the Guam-CNMI U.S. visa waiver program, which currently has 12 countries such as Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the UK.

Fontanilla, who’s visiting Guam for the first time, provided travel partners and agents with airline updates on Wednesday, followed by conversations with island media.

Israel Fontanilla, the new area manager for Philippines Airlines for Guam, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, says PAL anticipates reaching 86% of its pre-pandemic capacities by the year’s end, during an Oct. 12, 2022, briefing with island media at Hyatt Regency Guam.

‘More passengers’

PAL has started to see near pre-pandemic levels of air travel for the year. Fontanilla said PAL expects to reach 86% of its pre-pandemic capacities by year’s end.

“That means we’re getting more passengers now. It’s actually the first Christmas season wherein there are fewer restrictions,” Fontanilla said, adding that flights to the Philippines around Christmas are already 80% booked.

There’s no more mandatory hotel quarantine and proof of negative RT-PCR test results for foreign nationals arriving in the Philippines. That is, if they’re fully vaccinated and received at least one booster.

“Unfortunately, for the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccination status cannot be verified, former Filipinos and foreign nationals are not allowed to travel to the Philippines as of now,” he said.

For Filipinos or dual citizens arriving in the Philippines, there’s also no need to show negative COVID-19 test results and undergo quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, “with or without a booster shot.”

However, PAL still requires the wearing of masks during the duration of the flight because of Philippine government mandates, Fontanilla said. There’s no telling whether this will be lifted soon, he said.

The Philippines is known for its long Christmas celebrations, giving a sales boom to retailers.

Fontanilla said those visiting from Guam or the states right now would be able to stretch their dollar in the Philippines for goods and services. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Philippine peso was 58.85 to the U.S. dollar.

“The Philippines is open now. You have fewer restrictions you encounter when you arrive in the Philippines so we highly encourage Filipinos, especially those who haven’t been home for more than two years, to visit the Philippines and enjoy the tourist destinations that we have,” he said.

Fontanilla also shared PAL’s complimentary travel insurance when passengers fly to the Philippines via PAL, through Nov. 23 this year. The cost, he said, is embedded in the price of an airline ticket.

Daily flights

PAL, which is back to flying daily between Guam and Manila, uses a 168-seater aircraft and could request a bigger aircraft when there’s a need to do so, especially during the Christmas season.

“We’re very happy that right now, we’re doing our daily flights — Guam-Manila departs here at 6 a.m., arriving in Manila at 8 a.m.,” he said, allowing passengers to be able to connect to a lot of destinations.

This is in line with Philippine Airlines’ goal to become known as a “network carrier.”

“Before, we’re mostly concentrating on the Filipino market. Guam has a lot of Filipino passengers for that. But we’re looking at serving the other routes as well, to mainland USA to Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and to Australia as well,” Fontanilla said.

The October-November period is among the slowest months for travel, but PAL, according to Fontanilla, has been seeing a healthy passenger load. During his flight from Manila to Guam on Tuesday, there were about 130 passengers on the 168-seater plane, he said.

“We’re actually doing good,” Fontanilla added.

Find out where and how you can get vaccines and testing for COVID-19 and mAb treatment this week, based on information provided by Joint Information Center.


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