THE CHINESE AIRLINE whose disabled passenger jet caused the closure last Friday, Aug. 17, of a runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) apologized for that incident, even as Philippine officials mulled possible penalties against the company.
In a statement on Monday, XiamenAir said in part, “The continued thunderstorms have caused huge difficulties in the movement of the aircraft, causing the main runway at Manila Airport to be closed for more than 32 hours.”
A Xiamen passenger jet went off NAIA’s runway 06/24 on Thursday night amid heavy rains, causing the cancelation or delay of many flights and the airport’s overcrowding until the weekend.
“Xiamen Airlines apologizes to all the passengers affected by the incident and will do its utmost to assist,” the company also said.
In his press briefing on Monday, General Manager Ed V. Monreal of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said his agency cannot exactly “punish” the concerned airline, but said MIAA had already aired its concerns.
“We will definitely call their attention to follow the proper protocol….There might be some consequence, but I cannot qualify or quantify what penalties we will impose. But then again ang importante sa ganitong sitwasyon ay kooperasyon (what’s important during such a case is cooperation),” Mr. Monreal said.
He said MIAA met with an 11-man delegation from XiamenAir on Monday morning. He noted the airlines will pay for the costs brought about by the incident, but they have yet to compute the exact figure.
“There are a lot of losses…sequential and intangible expenses or losses,” Mr. Monreal said.
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a Palace briefing on Monday: “It’s not just an apology that we will ask for. We’re now conducting an investigation if there’s any liability on the part of the Xiamen pilot. That’s why he has been asked not to leave the country. That’s part of an ongoing investigation.”
An initial report by Air Accident and Incident Investigation Board the noted in part, “The Pilot in Command (PIC) or the captain is a Korean male, who is 50 years old and has a grand total time of 16,000 flying hours with 7,000 hours on the Boeing 737-800 aircraft type. The First Officer or the co-pilot is a Chinese male, 28 years old, with a grand total time of 950 flying hours and 750 hours on the Boeing 737-800 aircraft type.”
“The result of the drug tests were negative. We still await the result of the alcohol tests because it would take a long process, but we expect to have the results today. As we speak, there is an ongoing investigation and interview with the pilots and the cabin crew,” the report also read.
For its part, the Department of Tourism (DoT) said in a statement: “Our DOT-Airport Offices have been instructed to provide all possible assistance to those affected by this incident.”
“We will meet with airlines and airport authorities to further discuss the instances of Compensation for Delayed/Cancelled Flights and Delayed/Lost Baggage in the interest of all parties,” added the statement, which also extended DoT’s “sincerest apologies to all our local and foreign tourists inconvenienced by the Xiamen Airways plane mishap.”
For its part, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) urged the government in a statement on Monday to expedite the rehabilitation of the Manila gateway and the expansion of the Clark International Airport.
“The MAP urges the adoption of an airport complementation strategy whereby the existing NAIA and Clark international airports are developed and operated as an integrated system with the two airports complementing each other, ideally with an express rail link in place,” the business group said.
MAP also said: “We strongly object to the closing of NAIA — which we consider as a very drastic and counter-productive move. NAIA is a strategically located air gateway supported by a road system already in place and with proximately located rail and future subway lines to serve the needs of air travellers in Mega Manila and southern Luzon. Also, Manila’s first international cruise terminal is being planned to be built nearby in the next several years.”
“A city airport, such as NAIA, has the great advantage of convenient access, besides providing support to the local economy. Its benefits should not be neglected. Many metropolitan cities in the world recognize this reality. Their old city airports, instead of being phased out as previously intended in favor of newer large-capacity airports in the suburbs, are being upgraded. For example, Tokyo Haneda is being expanded to supplement Narita. Shanghai has its HongXiao in addition to Pudong, London City airport at the Canary Wharf, Reagan airport in Washington D.C., La Guardia in New York City. Even Bangkok is keeping Don Muang with Suvarnabhumi Airport.”
At the Senate, Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares on Monday filed a resolution seeking an inquiry on the mishap.
Ms. Poe’s Senate Resolution No. 852 also cited the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, which provides benefits to passenger in times of flight delay or cancellations. The policy was issued in 2012 as a joint administration order of the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
At the House of Representatives, Quezon City Representative Winston T. Castelo told reporters in a press briefing, Monday: “I think Congressman (Cesar V.) Sarmiento of the Committee on Transportation will investigate (the incident) motu proprio on Sept. 5.” — Denise A. Valdez, with Camille A. Aguinaldo, Arjay L. Balinbin, and Charmaine A. Tadalan