All systems go for the resumption of PHL passenger flights

Local airlines belonging to the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) are ready to resume commercial passenger flights under the "new normal". ACAP members Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, CebGo, and AirAsia Philippines are preparing for the resumption of scheduled commercial flights with precautionary measures at place to prevent any bio-security threat.

ACAP director and vice-chairman Roberto "Bobby" Lim said, "The aviation industry has always been held to a higher standard for safety and risk management versus other forms of mass transportation, and as such, processes and procedures that uphold the welfare and safety of passengers and personnel have been put in place to prevent the risk of infection from viruses and other contaminants."

Lim also assured that the safety measures and protocol of ACAP airline members are at par with the standards set by the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“While details may vary among individual members of ACAP, the new normal for flights will include minimized contact between passengers and the airline staff, increased utilization of online and digital processes for check-in and boarding, intensified cleaning and disinfection of all aircraft and facilities, among others," Lim added.

All ACAP airline member aircraft are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filters that traps bacteria, viruses and other contaminants with a 99.9% efficiency. It is the same air filtration system used by hospitals. Fresh air is also continuously injected into the cabin with an airflow from top to bottom.

ACAP however has reiterated its appeal for government support for the member airlines as these were greatly affected by the impact of the CoviD-19 that resulted to government imposed travel restrictions and bans forcing airlines to suspend commercial passenger operations.

This assistance is under the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) via long term credit facility, working capital credit lines, credit guarantee arrangements, and temporary relief from navigational and airport charges.

“To be clear, we are not asking for a bail-out or dole-out from government. What we are asking for is a hand-up to help airlines recover. The liquidity problems faced by the Philippine aviation industry are very similar to the challenges that airlines all over the world are dealing with. Airlines all over the world are already in talks with their respective governments for relief packages and inclusion in stimuli programs, many of which have already been granted,” Lim said.

According to the IATA, around 548,300 jobs including those jobs dependent on the aviation industry such as the travel and tourism industry in the Philippines may be affected if the government does not help the airlines.

Despite the suspension of commercial flights, ACAP member airlines have continued to support government efforts and initiatives by providing all-cargo services bringing medical supplies needed in the fight versus CoviD-19. Airlines have also been operating various sweeper and repatriation flights to ferry back stranded foreign nationals and to fly back Filipinos to the country.

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