Finally! After nearly two years of staying home in Cebu due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was thrilled to fly again and enjoy my first vacation outside my home province. With the peace of mind of being fully vaccinated, I was really looking forward to revisit destinations that were reopening to domestic tourists with fellow travel blogger Elal Lasola.
Cebu Pacific Air — the largest airline in the Philippines — sponsored our flights to one of my favorite destinations in the country: Camiguin. After relaunching the route in November 15, they are currently the only airline that flies to the island destination from their network hubs in Manila and Cebu. Customers can conveniently book flights on their website and app.
Since October 25, Camiguin has reopened its doors to domestic tourists, making it easy for fully vaccinated travelers to visit the scenic island. The province is best known for its diverse scenery: forested volcanoes, historic ruins, white-sand islands, and incredible dive sites. Connected by a circumferential highway and well-paved mountain roads, the 230 sqm main island is one of the best places to explore by scooter. Camiguin, after all, is the smallest province in the Philippines, after Batanes. So it was the perfect destination for me to master the motorcycle riding skills I picked up from driving school.
Fully vaccinated travelers are no longer required to submit test results; they are only required to create a QR code ID and accomplish the Health Declaration Form (HDF) at the Clean Camiguin website. The up-to-date Camiguin Tourism Office Facebook page lists the complete requirements and provides the latest news and information.
CHECK-IN & BOARDING
Our flight to Camiguin from Cebu was on December 7. It was a breeze to check-in for our flights on the Cebu Pacific Air website a few days before our flight, and save our boarding passes on our smartphones. Unfortunately, there’s an extra charge to be able to select your own seats during online check-in. Nonetheless, we were satisfied with our randomly assigned seats since they were both by a window.
As advised, we arrived two hours before boarding time at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). Before entering the departure hall, passengers are required to download the Traze app on their smartphones and log-in for contact tracing.
Cebu Pacific Air prefers contactless procedures in the interest of health and safety. Passengers may opt to check-in at the MCIA’s check-in kiosks, but they were not functioning at the time. If you’re flying from NAIA in Manila, passengers are encouraged to use the airline’s check-in kiosks to check-in for your flight and to print your own bag tags to be attached to your respective luggages before sending them off yourself at the bag drop counters.
These self-check-in kiosks were still not available at MCIA, and we dropped our bags at check-in counters manned by airline personnel. We were required to present our Camiguin travel requirements, before our bags were processed. Each passenger is now only allowed one (1) piece of hand-carry luggage no more than 7 kg in weight. Printed boarding passes were no longer handed out, since we can conveniently use the soft copies we had on our smartphones to enter the pre-departure area and board our flight.
Upon entering the aircraft, the sole flight attendant on our flight — dressed in full PPE — sanitized the hands of every passenger. Cebu Pacific Air reassures its customers that 100% of its active cabin crew has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Most importantly, all passengers are required to wear their masks at all times during the flight.
The midday weather was cloudy, but the 30-minute flight was smooth. The plane flew over Olango and island, then across Bohol (I saw the Chocolate Hills!) As the plane approached the island, we were treated with panoramic views of Camiguin’s lush volcanic peaks.
DEPLANING & ARRIVAL
Thankfully, upon touch-down, there’s no longer a mad rush to get off the plane as in pre-pandemic days! Deplaning is now done in a quiet and orderly fashion. The flight attendant announces which rows are permitted to stand-up and alight the aircraft. After collecting our luggages at the arrival hall of Camiguin Airport, we had to queue to present our travel requirements (ie. QR ID and HDF) before exiting the terminal and traveling to our hotel.
Overall, my first flight experience in the pandemic era was pleasant and efficient. There may be more steps to get through and more requirements to take care of, but these were all necessary for the health and safety of the passengers, staff members, and the residents of the destination. I’m looking forward to flying with peace of mind again and safely traveling to another Philippine destination with Cebu Pacific Air.