Boracay 6-month closure: Some Singapore travellers' plans affected, airlines caught off guard

Several affected airlines were not informed of the island's upcoming closure ahead of time.
Several affected airlines were not informed of the island's upcoming closure ahead of time. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The plans of several Singapore travellers have been affected by news that the resort island of Boracay in the Philippines would be closed for six months from April 26.

Some airlines with flights from Singapore to the town of Kalibo - which many people travel to before heading to Boracay island - were also caught off guard by the announcement by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night (April 4). The President's move is aimed at fixing Boracay's sewage and environment-related problems.

Some worried customers wrote on budget airline Scoot's Facebook page on Thursday about flights they had booked with the airline that would be affected by the island's closure, and asked for updates and air ticket refunds as their trips would have to be cancelled.

Said Facebook user Alsu Mingazeeva: "Hello! (Boracay) closed! I have two tickets from Singapore to Kalibo on (May 30). What can you offer to help us?"

Other travellers were more fortunate. Nanyang Technological University student Clarissa Lim, 21, initially planned to visit the island for a diving trip. But she changed her plans recently due to chatter earlier that the island was about to close.

"My diving instructor friend saw news reports about how Mr Duterte was planning to shut down Boracay, which was why we switched to Malapascua instead," said Ms Lim.

"Now that it is confirmed that Boracay is really going to be shut down, it was a good call, and I'm relieved that we decided to make the switch."

Mr Adrian Xu, a PhD student who has scheduled a trip to Boracay from Saturday to next Monday, ahead of the island's closure, was assured by his accommodation providers and the diving centres he plans to visit that his bookings would not be affected, at least for this coming weekend.

"It's been quite sudden but people have been expecting it," said the 26-year old.

Several affected airlines were not informed of the island's upcoming closure ahead of time.

Replying to requests for help and refunds for flights to Boracay on its Facebook page, Scoot informed customers that it was "still pending updates on how this situation will affect flights".

"We'll keep all passengers informed as soon as we receive any updates," the airline added.

 
 

SilkAir told The Straits Times that it had also not been made aware of Boracay's closure in advance, and had received a number of queries about the possibility of refunds for the airline's flights to the island from Singapore.

The airline also advised customers to get the latest updates through its website or Facebook page.

"Currently, we are monitoring the situation closely and will provide customers with an update in due course," said a SilkAir spokesman.

It was a similar situation for online travel booking sites such as Expedia. The company said that it hopes to share updates with travellers soon.

"We are currently seeking to better understand the impact of travel to Boracay and options for travellers, in consultation with our hotels and airline partners," an Expedia spokesman added.

Meanwhile, some tour agencies such as Chan Brothers Travel have not been affected by the impending closure of the holiday destination.

Ms Justine Koh, a marketing communications executive of Chan Brothers Travel, said that the agency does not have any travellers in Boracay until June.

Since travellers often make bookings to the island less than two months in advance, no trips have been affected, explained Ms Koh.

"Travel to the Philippines is usually a shorter-term decision as it is a short-haul destination," she said.