PAL to send 'special flights' to China to assist stranded passengers amid virus outbreak

PAL to send 'special flights' to China to assist stranded passengers amid virus outbreak

MANILA, Philippines — Flag carrier Philippine Airlines said Thursday it will form special flights to assist passengers who are stranded in mainland China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, PAL said the special flights serving the Manila-Xiamen and Xiamen-Manila routes will operate on Monday, February 10. The airline said it plans to use its 199-seater Airbus A321 aircraft for the planned mission.

“The inbound flight from Xiamen will enable Filipino citizens and holders of Philippine permanent resident visas to fly back to the Philippines,” PAL said.

“The outbound flight from Manila will allow Chinese and other non-Filipino nationals to return to mainland China via Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, which is a gateway to other points in China,” it added.

“Flight PR 334 will depart Manila for Xiamen at 7:30 a.m. on February 10, arriving at 9:55 a.m. The return PR335 leg will depart Xiamen at 11:05 a.m. and arrive in Manila at 1:50 p.m. on February 10,” it continued.

As of Thursday, Chinese officials put the latest death toll at 563, and the number of confirmed cases at 28,018.

The SARS-like virus has prompted travel restrictions in China and paralyzed regional travel, affecting many Filipino workers overseas. PAL has canceled its mainland China flights since February 2.

After his country confirmed its first case of the virus, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this week imposed a travel ban on the whole of China and its special administrative regions in a bid to contain the infection.

PAL’s special flights are subject to final government approvals, including the waiver of the Filipino travel ban for pilots and cabin crew who will have to submit to home quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the Philippines. 

At present, 64 PAL crew members are under the mandated 14-day quarantine after flying from China prior to the travel ban.

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