Despite the threat of the new coronavirus strain Omicron, local airlines continue to ramp up their operations to address travel demand from returning overseas Filipinos during the Christmas season.

In an advisory, Philippine Airlines said it will continue servicing its 33 international routes which include the United States, London, Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, among others.

The airline will also be flying in 41 domestic routes out of key gateways including Manila, Cebu, Davao, Zamboanga and Iloilo.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) earlier revised the arrival guidelines for testing and quarantine of travelers from yellow and green list countries as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant.

Cielo Villaluna, PAL spokesperson, said PAL flights continue despite the new guidelines.

“The revisions only cover adjustments on testing and quarantine protocols for international arrivals to protect our borders against the new variant. This means our flights continue and our passengers are mandated to comply with these enhanced protocols,” Villaluna said.

PAL also operates flights to the following green list countries and regions – Indonesia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Passengers who want to postpone travel may rebook flights within 60 days, convert their tickets to travel vouchers or refund the cost of the tickets, PAL said.

Budget carrier AirAsia Philippines also resumed its regional operation after two years of commercial flight hiatus, with inaugural flights from Manila to Singapore, servicing OFWs and essential business travelers who are flying from and returning to the Philippines for the holidays.

AirAsia for its part continues to fly to Singapore via Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 every Saturday.

“We are happy to have successfully expanded our route network to Singapore. Initially we will cater to our Filipino workers and business travelers but soon as we slowly recover from the global pandemic, we hope to open this route for leisure travel also,” said Steve Dailisan, AirAsia Philippines spokesman.

Based on the new IATF requirements, fully vaccinated travelers are required to have negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests taken within 72 hours prior to departure, undergo facilitybased quarantine until release of negative results, do a swab test on the fifth day from day of arrival and undergo home quarantine until the 14th day from arrival.

For eligible travelers who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated, they must have negative RT-PCR tests taken within 72 hours prior departure, undergo facilitybased quarantine until release of negative results, do a swab test on the seventh day from day of arrival and also undergo home quarantine until the 14th day from arrival.

Effective December 5, only passengers who comply with the negative RT-PCR test-before-travel requirement shall be allowed to board flights to the Philippines, according to the IATF. Guidelines on travel to the Philippines from red list countries remain unchanged.

Inbound international travel shall not be allowed, regardless of vaccination status, except for Filipinos coming from red list countries/regions, or who have been to red list countries/regions within the last 14 days prior to arrival to any port of the Philippines.

“Only Filipinos returning to the Philippines via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for red list countries,” the IATF said.

However, passengers from red list countries require swabbing on the seventh day from day of arrival. They will be released from the facility upon completion of the mandated 10-day facilitybased quarantine and presentation of a negative RT-PCR result.

Countries under the red list include South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.