AsiaMiddle EastOperations

Etihad Airlines comes under fire over $1,500 surcharge for returning Filipino seafarers

Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etihad Airlines has come under fire for its decision to add a $1,500 surcharge for Filipinos heading home.

Amid a tightened travel ban, commercial flights between the United Arab Emirates and Manila operated by Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have been cancelled through to June 30. UAE carriers Emirates and Etihad, meanwhile, continue to fly to Manila, but are only taking transit passengers with Etihad adding a hefty premium on tickets as available capacity tightens.

Etihad is a key airline moving Filipino seafarers around the world. The Philippines remains one of the world’s top two sources of crew for the global merchant fleet, alongside China.

Captain Kuba Szymanski, the secretary-general of InterManager, the association for third-party shipmanagers, hit out at the Etihad surcharge in a video post on Twitter yesterday, saying the decision was a “disgrace” given how seafarers had been a trusted source of revenue for airlines during the pandemic downturn.

Another Middle Eastern airline, Qatar Airlines, one of the most important transporters of seafarers during the pandemic, continues to call in the Philippines.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Bet Dollars to Donuts that the Government in Manila is getting a little taste. Dig a little deeper and you will see. If the right people are punished they will sqeal. They are not going to do this without a green light from the Philippine Government who is already enjoying the fruits of lockdowns and travel restrictions. It’s not just Arabs.

    1. So that’s why Duterte got 91% approval lately in his final year in office! Try again.

    2. Mr. Pullman, one of the greatest issues in our society today is misinformation. Much of this misinformation comes from people like yourself who make unfounded accusations without offering a shred of evidence. If someone made accusations against you with as little evidence you would probably cry ‘Slander’ or ‘Libel’. I am all for rooting out corruption in government, but we must base all accusations on fact. Otherwise those based in fact get discredited along with the rest.

    3. I doubt that.
      It’s no secret the Philippine government is corrupt but the 1500 dollar surcharge can be done easily and unilaterally without needing any involvement of any filipino politician at all.

      Furthermore this surcharge is demanded by the airline itself.

      So while I agree we should hold our government accountable for negative policies and corruption, there is no need to blame them for every little inconvenience either.

      I think this is just a case of usury by Etihad.

    4. Dang right. I believe You’re on to something here. Phils Gov is really super corrupt – ready to rip off their own without no scrupples…

  2. Good day
    In you article you refer to the Filipino people as seafarers, how do you know that is their profession and/or way of transportation? That I am aware the airlines do not require to travel to state the proffesion of the traveler. It looks you are stereotyping the Filipino people and that is a way of discrimination.

  3. Hi Sam and other readers,

    I’m one of those OFWs who went on a vacation to Philippines and used Emirates to fly back home. I don’t know where you got those info but let me get it straight for all your readers. Currently, PH only allows 50 inbound passengers. So Emirates decided to sell all business and first class seats first then the rest will be in economy class. This is a very straight forward tactic of the airline so as to not lose any money. My flight was last June 12 but I bought my ticket months before so I didn’t have to pay a hefty price because I am know regardless of airline company, If you booked in last minute you will really pay a high price. Now this is what happened with Emirates flights and even Qatar Airways is the same. The solution is if you want to get economy class then book months in advance. If you have money to spare, then book the economy class. The amount that I paid for a roundtrip ticket amounts to 1000usd from Russia-Dubai-Manila route. My friend paid 1800usd for the same route but in business class. Now taking into account your accusations where the heck did you get 1500usd surcharge price?

    1. Alias “unknown”
      The Author and Capt.K.S. are talking about PH Seafarers. It goes without saying, all PH Seafarers are OFWs but not all PH OFWs are Seafarers if You care to notice.
      In contrast with land based OFWs the Seafarers are employed on constantly mowing around the world objects called “ships” .
      Ship’s destinatinos ETA’s as well as departures ETDs – hence future locations and time schedules are difficult to determine months in advance due to many reasons, with which land based OFWs are not concerned with to say the least or are “unknown” to them.

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