Local airlines ordered to reduce flights by 30%

Posted at 06/11/12 6:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Local airlines may have to reduce their flights out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) by 30% starting July.

"The government has mandated us to reduce flying out of Manila by 30% across-the-board, effective July 5," said Zest Airways chief marketing and sales officer Alfredo Herrera.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has been looking for ways to ease runway congestion at the NAIA, including a reduction in the number of flights.

Herrera said the DOTC order was discussed in a technical working group meeting among airline representatives last week.
"We are already taking preparations. We are just being pro-active. Cebu Pacific had said that it will not reduce their flights unless something is put in writing," Herrera said.

Cebu Pacific declined to issue a comment.

However, Transportation and Communication Secretary Mar Roxas, in a text message, stressed this was a voluntary effort on the part of the airline companies, knowing the limitations of Metro Manila's airports.

"The airlines, all of them, knowing the limitations of the NAIA runway, realizing that, among themselves, their scheduled flights already EXCEED the runway safety limits, seeing the effect of this in delays, more fuel expended, disrupted operations and angry passengers, all voluntarily hired and subjected themselves to a common INDEPENDENT flight/slot scheduler who rescheduled their flights during peak hours towards off peak," Roxas said.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla said the directive will rationalize the operations of airlines during peak hours.  "It is not totally going to reduce their flights but rather transfer the ones that will be affected to other slots or to a different time," he said.

Runway congestion has been blamed for the numerous flight delays at the NAIA.

Based on DOTC data, commercial airlines doubled their fleet from 62 in 2008 to 119 at present. In 2006, airlines only serviced 18 million passengers, but this grew to 30 million last year.

Takeoffs and landings at NAIA also increased to 255,000 in 2011 compared to 171,000 in 2006.

NAIA's runways can only accommodate 36 takeoffs and landings per hour. But during the peak summer season, it usually has as much as 50 events an hour during the day.