Philippines introduces vaccination mandate for unlimited air travel

From January 17, only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to use public transport to, from and within the national capital of the Philippines. While there are exceptions to this policy, the general policy also applies to air travel, which appears to cover a large proportion of flights as Manila is the country’s largest air hub. Let’s take a look at the policies and how airlines are responding in the country.

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

Vaccination mandate for all public transport

The Philippine Department of Transportation recently issued Department Order No. Enacted 2022 – 001, which states that only fully vaccinated individuals may take public transportation to, from and within the country’s NCR (National Capital Region). The National Capital Region, also known as ‘Metro Manila’, includes the large city of Manila, but also extends to urban areas north and south of the capital.

With the announcement on January 11, the government has not given much time to those affected to prepare. The six-day notice was in full effect on Monday, January 17: “to give a little wiggle room and give people a chance to prepare”, The Secretary of State for Transport, Artemio Tuazon Jr., said in a statement.

“This one [Department Order] will cover public transport for persons who live outside NCR but work and/or travel there,” – Department Order No. 2022 – 001

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

The Department of Transport has allowed two major exceptions to the mandate:

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

Philippine Airlines allows travelers to rebook

Flagship Philippine Airlines says it will not accept fully vaccinated passengers for carriage on its domestic flights to and from Manila until January 17. This distinction between domestic and international flights becomes somewhat confusing when you consider that the NCR is the primary gateway for flights in and out of the country.

At the same time, the language included in the government decree makes no distinction between domestic or international flights – only that it applies to travel to, from and within the NCR. Given this language, we should assume that flights to and from the capital’s Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport require a vaccination certificate.

This point becomes moot as the airline states on its website that proof of full vaccination will be made a requirement for all foreign nationals allowed to enter the Philippines from Feb. 16.

The airline will give some flexibility to travelers affected by the new policy, stating that travelers will have the following options if they purchased a ticket before January 17 for travel between January 17 and January 31. “Your ticket is safe and remains valid, and you can use the following options:”

  1. Convert your ticket into Travel Credits equal to the unused base fare of your ticket. The validity of the voucher is one year (1) from the date of issue.
  2. Rebook your ticket to another flight with available space within 60 days of the original flight in the same travel class.
  3. Refund ticket without fines, excluding Ticketing Service Charge.
Philippine Airlines Airbus A350
Philippine Airlines is the country’s main long-haul airline. Photo: Airbus

AirAsia Publicly Declares Compliance

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

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

A320_1 AirAsia
AirAsia Philippines publicly supported the mandate in a statement posted on its website. Photo: AirAsia

The statement of the budget carrier also draws attention to the exemptions offered by the mandate. AirAsia Philippines confirms that unvaccinated guests with medical waivers or essential travel from Metro Manila are still allowed to fly, “provided they present a duly signed medical certificate with the name and contact details of their physician.”

What do you think of this new mandate? And does that bother you? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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