US visa waiver program with PAL on hold
MANILA -Philippine Airlines (PAL) is unable to fly nonimmigrant passengers to the United States who qualify for the visa waiver program (VWP) for the meantime after the airline’s agreement for this travel privilege with the US government has expired.
The flag carrier, in a statement on Tuesday, said it was working with the US Customs Border Protection to resolve the matter.
“Rest assured that we are continuing to work with the US authorities on full renewal of our VWP arrangement,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said.
Under the US VWP, most citizens of 40 participating countries can visit the US for 90 days or less without securing a visa. Travelers, however, must have a valid electronic system for travel authorization approval and meet the requirements, including citizenship in the participating countries.
In return, these participating countries must also allow US citizens and nationals to visit their countries for 90 days even without a visa.
In Asia, countries included in the VWP are Brunei, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Greece, France, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland, among others, are also part of the program.
“Most PAL passengers, notably Filipinos with valid US visas or US citizens/residents, are not affected and may travel on our flights to the United States,” Villaluna noted.
Affected passengers are given assistance, including transfer to another airline. Another option is for passengers to avail themselves of travel credits or refund.
“We are prepared to assist you in identifying suitable alternative flights with other airlines that are able to carry VWP passengers at this time. Kindly note that we strongly advise against purchasing tickets independently from another airline; PAL will manage the transfer process for you,” the carrier said.
Travel credits are valid for future ticket purchases within two years.
PAL offers direct flights to the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu.
The flag carrier recently inked a purchase deal for nine A350-1000s with Airbus, which will be used for long-haul services from Manila to the East Coast of United States and Canada.
The airline’s passenger volume rose by 89 percent to 7 million in the first half, booking average passenger load factor of 81.6 percent. INQ