Flights are already running to and from Manila and it has been more than a week since the Philippine travel restrictions were eased — yet many Filipino expats in the UAE are staying put. Most say they have no plans of flying home even for Christmas, which used to be a peak travel period.

“Here’s the situation: We are allotted just 30 calendar days for annual leave. Now, if we will be using that up to go home for vacation, we’ll be spending a huge chunk of it stuck in a hotel for quarantine,” said Irish Razonable, an HR and operations manager for a firm in Dubai.

“It’s not worth it,” she said.

Airlines have opened up bookings for flights to Manila and other parts of the Philippines. In fact, Emirates has already resumed its scheduled passenger services, with seven weekly trips to and from the country’s capital. Philippine Airlines and budget carrier Cebu Pacific are yet to run their usual services, however, they are operating special commercial flights.

Despite the flight availability, Malou Prado, owner and CEO of MPQ Travel and Tourism, did observe that most expats were reluctant to go home for vacation.

Majority of their Philippine bookings, she said, are one-way tickets which cost around Dh4,500 to Dh4,700 — a huge spike from the pre-pandemic Dh1,500 one-way fare.

Though return tickets cost just a few hundreds more, Dh4,800 to Dh5,000 — there aren’t many takers.

“We rarely see those who are travelling for vacation because of the quarantine protocols, in addition to the Covid rules back home,” Prado said.

Razonable said the pandemic situation and the ‘confusing, ever-changing’ lockdowns and safety measures in the Philippines are also a primary reason why she wasn’t keen on flying.

“How will I be able to enjoy my supposed vacation if places are closed and there could even be movement restrictions depending on the lockdown classifications?” she said.

Instead of going home for Christmas, Razonable has decided to bring her son, mother, father and brother to Dubai.

Laraine Concepcion — whose two daughters have been in the UAE on a visit for nearly a year now — have no plans of sending her kids back to Manila.

“They are safer here with us, given the Covid situation in the Philippines. I want them to stay in Dubai for as long as they can. After all, their classes are held online and they can attend them from here,” said Concepcion, an admin assistant in Dubai.

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