THE CIVIL Aeronautics Board (CAB) has chosen to keep mum on the Philippines’s ongoing dispute with Dubai, which continues to block the loading of more passengers on direct commercial flights to Manila.
Despite several text and Viber messages, CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla failed to respond to questions regarding the row between Manila and Dubai over the arrivals cap currently in place at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). CAB, an attached agency of the Department of Transportation, regulates the operations of the aviation sector and tasked to negotiate air agreements with its counterparts in other countries.
A CAB source told the BusinessMirror, “CAB has already written DCAA [Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, its counterpart] to complain,” about Dubai’s limit on the number of passengers that it allows to board flights directly to Manila. Aviation sources said the limit, currently at 70 per flight, is also imposed on Dubai air carriers, not just on Philippine carriers.
The source could not say if DCAA had already responded to the CAB’s letter, however. The source added, CAB did not want their letter to DCAA publicized “as it could escalate the tensions with UAE and DCAA,” confirming that the resolution of the dispute is not yet in sight.
Carriers’ rerouting continues
Flag carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have continued to reroute their commercial flights from Dubai to Manila using regional hubs in the country, due to Dubai’s cap.
PAL announced seven flights a week from Dubai International Airport this December, landing in Subic Bay International Airport (every Thursday and Friday), Mactan International (every Sunday), and Davao International (every Tuesday), “in compliance with government restrictions.”
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said flights landing in Subic Bay International are transferred via land to Manila courtesy of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, but for those who are not overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), “PAL assists [in the transfer].”
Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, is flying passengers five times weekly this December from Dubai landing in Mactan International (every Monday, Thursday, Saturday); and Davao International (every Wednesday).
“These are commercial flights and foreign nationals are allowed,” said Carmina Reyes-Romero, CEB’s Director for Corporate Communications. The carrier also has Bayanihan flights on December 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 23, 25, 27, and 30, she said, which are allowed to fly direct to Manila. Bayanihan flights mainly carry OFWs.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, government put a cap of 2,000 arrivals per day at the Naia, which irked Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Dubai whose carriers fly commercial routes to Manila. Despite Manila increasing the daily arrivals to 4,000, Dubai authorities continue to put obstacles in the flights to Manila. An Airbus 330-300, used by PAL and CEB, can typically carry around 400 passengers per flight.
Using regional hubs, both carriers can load more than 70 passengers per flight, beyond the cap imposed by Dubai on direct flights to Manila. The regional hubs function as layovers from which the passengers are then flown to Manila, which is counted as a domestic flight.
DOT video awarded
Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism said the Philippines was hailed one of the Exceptional Stories of Sustainable Tourism in the 2021 Tourism Video Competition of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for the agency’s “Have A Safe Trip, Pinas” campaign.
“We are proud that the video produced by the Department made it to this prestigious competition. More importantly, we were able to show how tourism provides jobs and livelihoods while conveying our message of traveling safely,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a news statement over the weekend.
The competition was launched by the UNWTO ahead of its 24th General Assembly, and was designed to recognize the best visual storytellers from every global region. (Watch the video on https://bit.ly/3GyCuCY)