By Daphne J. Magturo, Reporter

Flights canceled after 5-hour blackout hits NAIA

Posted on April 04, 2016

AT LEAST 49 flights were canceled and thousands of passengers were stranded, following a blackout on Saturday night at a terminal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City due to a technical glitch with the power source.

Passengers queue up as they arrive at the departure area at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on March 23. -- AFP
NAIA Terminal 3, which services mostly domestic flights, lost power at 8:45 p.m. after “a substation of Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) at NAIA tripped,” the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said in a statement yesterday.

The substation was able to relay “stable power” starting 12:30 a.m., and terminal facilities were “fully functional” by 2:00 a.m., about five hours after the blackout.

Exhausted passengers sprawled on the floor as check-in counters and luggage carousels shut down. Long queues formed outside the terminal as entrances were closed until power was restored.

MIAA advised passengers with affected flights to contact their airlines.

“The Airport Authority apologizes for this inconvenience,” the MIAA said. “Measures are now being worked out to make sure that a power outage does not occur again in the future.”

Sought for comment, Philippine Airlines Spokesperson Maria Cielo C. Villaluna said in a mobile phone reply yesterday afternoon: “We had four cancelations in relation to power supply issue and 83 flight delays as of this time.”

The canceled flights were bound for Caticlan and Legaspi, she said.

The country’s largest carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB), canceled 45 domestic flights, according to an e-mail yesterday. A report by AFP quoted a company statement as saying it canceled as many as 78 flights, affecting nearly 14,000 passengers.

“CEB is arranging the re-accommodation of affected passengers on the soonest available flights,” Cebu Pacific General Manager Jose Alejandro B. Reyes said in a mobile phone reply yesterday.

He said affected passengers may ask for a full refund or reschedule their flights for travel within 30 days from the original date.

Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, named after the assassinated father of incumbent President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, handles an average of 350 domestic and international flights daily, according to data from the transportation ministry.

It is one of four terminals in a complex that was once dubbed by the travel Web site Guide to Sleeping in Airports as the world’s worst due to leaking toilets and creaking facilities.

“We are looking into the root cause of this problem,” Terminal 3 general manager Octavio Lina told DZMM radio.

Manila power retailer Meralco said a transmission line tripped briefly but was restored in minutes, suggesting that the problem could be with the airport’s systems.

The four Manila airport terminals were designed for 17 million passengers annually, but overuse has made the airport notorious for flight delays.

Plans to build a new airport outside Manila have not materialized under Mr. Aquino. An excruciatingly slow infrastructure overhaul has led to chronic commuter train breakdowns and traffic jams. -- with AFP