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08
Jun

Flights to Middle East shuffled for Pinoys

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By Jeannette I. Andrade | Philippine Daily Inquirer

Filipino passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) were shuffled between airline companies to reach their various destinations in the Gulf on Wednesday as the chaos in Qatar continued.

Qatar Airways suspended all its flights to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.

“All customers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination,” it said.

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), the UAE’s carrier Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air meanwhile suspended all flights to Qatar.

Qatar Air denied reports that Doha-bound Filipinos, mostly overseas workers, were being barred from leaving, saying that there has been no change in the status of their flights to Qatar in the light of an announcement by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) suspending the deployment of OFWs to that country.

An immigration official at the airport, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said they have not received any order to stop Qatar-bound OFWs.

“The DOLE suspended the deployment but we have not received orders to hold OFWs going to Qatar,” he told the Inquirer.

“But, of course, if an OFW does not have an overseas employment certificate we are duty-bound to stop him or her from leaving,” he said.

Passengers bound for the destinations where Qatar Air flights have been suspended were instructed by the airline’s office at the Naia to coordinate with their main ticketing office in Taguig City.

Qatar-bound passengers of Saudia, Etihad and Gulf Air were promptly transferred to other flights or given the option of refunding their tickets.

Employees at the Saudia office at the Naia told the Inquirer that they have not received word about the status of their Qatar-bound flights from the head office, saying it may be because they did not have too many passengers for the route.

“Most passengers would rather fly directly to Qatar because our flights have stopovers in Jeddah or Riyadh,” one employee said.

One OFW bound for Saudi Arabia clarified his booking with Qatar Airways a day ahead of his scheduled flight on Thursday, giving him ample time to make new travel arrangements./rga