THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said it will increase the penalties on airlines that “misuse” their airport takeoff and landing slots in a bid to decongest Ninoy Aquino International Airport, (NAIA) the country’s main gateway.

In a statement, the DoTr said in a new joint memorandum circular that regulators will penalize airlines that fail to use their slots or reserve slots for the purpose of denying competitors the use of those slots.

It said the penalties include denial of slot precedence for airlines that operate services without corresponding timeslots and loss of priority in future slot allocations for misuse or inefficient use of slots.

JMC 2019-01, the DoTr said, was signed by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

The Timeslot Committee has been authorized to review the slot coordinator’s findings on airlines’ slot performance. The coordinaor is also empowered to initiate disciplinary action against airlines.

“Landing at an airport is a privilege,” Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said in the statement. “To intentionally disregard the value of these airport slots is unethical, and an aggravation to the current state of congestion at NAIA. We have to recognize the domino effects of slot misuse, which ultimately result in massive inconvenience to our air passengers.”

The DoTr said NAIA handled 45 million passengers in 2018, up 23%.