Going Up Into the Philippine Skies and the EU (OfficiallyPhilippines.com)

(This article was published in the Officially Philippines.com website last April 21, 2010)

My usual sojourn during summertime is a trip to the island paradise called Boracay, where the sand is as white as it can be, the waters as clear as crystal, and the beach – well, it’s just hot in every sense of the word. For me, it’s the ultimate travel destination during the sizzling summer months. I’ve been going there since I was probably around six years old, when the island was still undeveloped and we practically had the beach to ourselves. Back then, we just stayed at a quaint nipa hut cottage with simple furnishings and without electrical power. Boracay has gone a long way since those days. Aside from having electricity installed, it now has a variety of first-rate resorts, diverse cuisine choices, and has even become the top pick in everyone’s beach destinations list.

During my last few visits there, I noticed that there was an influx of tourists from all over the world – Asians, Americans and Europeans. Apparently, it has become well known to them, too. And it’s not just Boracay, I’ve heard a lot of tourists have discovered other places of interest around the country as well. From Boracay to Cebu, and Camarines Sur to Palawan, there has been a regular flow of tourists to these popular places.

How to get there?

Well, there are a variety of local airlines to choose from. There’s Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Air, to name a few. I’ve ridden in all of them and I’m proud to say that I have arrived in my destination safe and sound, each and every time. Now, what’s this I hear about the European vacationers being discouraged by their governments in flying with Philippine aircrafts?

For some reason, last March 30, the European Commission has put the aviation group of the Philippines under its “watch list,” which entails a ban on all air carriers from the Philippines to fly in and out of Europe. In effect, the European tourists would not be able to obtain travel insurance when flying with a Philippine aircraft to the other islands. This has, unfortunately, greatly affected the tourism industry of the Philippines. A lot of Europeans who had booked their travels to the Philippines during the past travel fairs in Berlin and London have already cancelled their bookings.

The local tour operators are now resorting to finding alternative ways to resolve this situation. European tourists can still head to their dream destinations either by land or by sea, although it might take them longer to get there. The Department of Tourism is actually working on making the land transfers to the usual travel spots a more enjoyable experience for tourists. And another option is to take other international air carriers to get them there. Did you know that you could now go to Boracay or Cebu by flying with Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Silk Air or Malaysian Airlines? What makes these airlines more reliable than the local ones?

Have you heard about the recent incident with Cathay Pacific? One of their flights from Surabaya, Indonesia had to make an emergency landing at the international airport in Hong Kong. It is believed that the plane’s left hand engine had shut down as it approached Hong Kong. During the landing, all the tires on the plane’s left side, as well as two from the right side had deflated. The tires actually automatically deflate to prevent them from rupturing during high energy braking and other similar situations. This incident had caused injuries to eight passengers on board. Now, should this deter you from taking future flights with Cathay Pacific as well?

To fly or not to fly?

I admit, I have been complaining about Boracay becoming more crowded every year, but I know that it’s a good thing, especially for our tourism industry. And if I can safely get there via local aircraft, why couldn’t European tourists also do so? I have traveled to different destinations with local airplanes – from Hong Kong to China, and Thailand to Singapore, and I believe our aircrafts are at par with other Southeast Asian airlines. Although I must admit that Philippine air carriers still have a long way to go compared to the more established airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

For instance, there are no airlines in the Philippines that have 202 travel destinations like Lufthansa, which also happens to be Europe’s largest airline in terms of the number of overall passengers. While Singapore Airlines was the first one who introduced a “Class Beyond First,” where the plane seats can be fully reclined and transformed into a flat bed. Now that’s traveling in style – and comfort! The Philippine air carriers may not offer the same features, but they can still get you to your travel destination unscathed, whether you’re a local or not.

If I can do it, why can’t they?