Manila routes disrupted by new Philippines COVID-19 travel restrictions

Airlines in the Philippines are canceling many domestic and international flights over the next several days due to new travel restrictions imposed by the government in major metropolitan areas.

The new rules prevent all but essential travel in and out of the Manila metro area until April 4 because of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases which threaten to overwhelm local hospitals.

On March 21, the government approved a recommendation from an Interagency Task Force that certain areas be placed under general community quarantine. This applies to the Manila area as well as nearby provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. A range of restrictions on gatherings, restaurant dining and other activities were also imposed, as well as a curfew.

In addition to the domestic travel rules, the government has also set tighter caps on international flight until April 19. Only 1,500 international arrivals per day—for all airlines combined—will be allowed into Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) during this period. Most foreigners will be banned from entering the country until April 21.

This has caused Philippine Airlines (PAL) to reroute certain international flights due to arrive at MNL to Clark (CRK) or Cebu (CEB) instead. Some other flights will be canceled altogether. PAL canceled six international return flights on March 23, eight on March 24, five on March 25, and seven on March 26. More cancelations are expected to be announced.

Cebu Pacific said it will operate domestic flights as scheduled until March 24, which will allow some people to return home as well as other essential travel. However, several of the carrier’s domestic flights have been canceled between March 25 and April 4.

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week Network

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.