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By: Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer

The country’s major airlines operating from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) have canceled their domestic and international flights for the rest of May after Metro Manila, the epicenter of the country’s new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, was kept under strict lockdown until May 31.

Budget carriers Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines said all passenger flights would remain grounded, while flag carrier Philippine Airlines canceled all flights in Manila, Clark and Cebu.

Skyjet Airlines, which flies to holiday destinations among them Batanes, Camiguin, Coron and Siargao, said its customers would be notified of their flights’ suspensions via email with instructions on what to do.

“We are evaluating the possibility of flying international routes and/or domestic routes to and from our Davao hub,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Cebu Pacific corporate communications director Charo Logarta Lagamon said Cebu Pacific and Cebgo domestic and international flights would remain canceled from May 16 to May 31.

Lagamon encouraged passengers on canceled flights to manage their bookings online via the Cebu Pacific website, or contact their travel agents before their scheduled travel dates.

She said customers might also opt for free rebooking with changed fees and fare difference waived, park their ticket cost in a travel fund valid for use within one year, or refund their fare in full. In an online advisory, Air Asia Philippines said passengers who booked flights before May 12 with a departure date between March 23 and

July 1 would be given “flexibility options” for future travel, and can check these out by visiting the airline’s website, or calling its emergency hotline.

Even when they restart operations, local carriers are expected to fly with more li­mited capacity and routes.

“We plan to operate a reduced number of weekly flights on most domestic routes and on selected international routes by June 1 but this will depend on COVID-19 conditions,” Villaluna said.

Naia, which accounts for about 80 percent of all flights in the Philippines, is currently on limited operation.

Some local airlines are allowed to conduct sweeper flights, mercy flights and repatriation flights for stranded domestic and foreign travelers, and overseas Filipino workers. Cargo, medical, maintenance, weather mitigation, government and military flights are also allowed.