Cebu Pacific keeping NAIA flights intact

Posted at 07/01/2012 8:29 PM | Updated as of 07/02/2012 7:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Cebu Air Inc., operator of Cebu Pacific (CEB), is keeping flight operations out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) intact amid calls from the government for all domestic airlines to reduce flights by as much as 30 percent during peak hours.

The reduction in flights is aimed at decongesting the runway at NAIA so there would be lesser flight delays and cancellations. The call was supposed to take effect July 5, said some airlines.

CEB said there are ongoing discussions between aviation officials and local airlines on how to decongest the runway other than flight reduction. Until those discussions are concluded, the budget airline is keeping its flights out of NAIA intact.

”There is a dialogue [that is] ongoing and the government is taking three major steps to address congestion at NAIA. We have to see what the effect is first before we can make a final decision,” said CEB president Lance Gokongwei.

The NAIA runway can only accommodate an average of 36 events, whether for takeoffs or landings, per hour. However, actual scheduled commercial and general aviation flights went to as high as 50 events per hour during daytime in the summer season, causing a congested runway resulting in flight delays and cancellations.

“But things are beginning to improve last June. For Cebu Pacific we are already on 81 percent on-time performance,” said Gokongwei.

Cebu Pacific, he said, is working closely with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with its plan to take out general aviation at NAIA and transfer it to Sangley point in Cavite City; install night-landing facilities in busy airports; and work closely with a government-appointed independent slot coordinator which is tasked to distribute flight slots to various carriers. Gokongwei said these are three major steps that government has promised to undertake.

Gokongwei said general aviation takes up 25 percent to 30 percent of the flight slots at NAIA during peak hours. “Why favor the interest of some versus the interest of many? Basically, it’s like Boeing 747 aircraft, which carries hundreds of passengers, versus Cessna planes which transports like less than 10 on board,” the CEB official pointed out.

DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas said the government recognizes the huge challenge stemming from the country’s air fleet having doubled from 62 aircraft in 2008 to 119 aircraft this year. Each of these planes flew at least three times a day to accommodate more than 29 million passengers in 2011, up from only 18 million in 2006.