Manila: Two weeks after a bogged down Xiamen Air flight nearly paralysed operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a Senate probe exposed shortcomings by airport authorities that resulted in misery for some 25,000 stranded passengers.
“They can claim that the incident was a wake-up call for the airport and transport authorities, but what is clear is that all of them (authorities) were fixated on how to remove the stranded aircraft from the runway without taking into consideration the conditions of the passengers given the long hours they were forced to endure without certainty that they would be able to board a flight at all,” Senator Grace Poe said.
On the evening of August 16, a Xiamen Air flight Boeing 737-800 skidded off the runway while making a landing during heavy rains at NAIA runway 06/24. While all 157 passengers and crew in the flight were safe despite the aircraft losing one of its two engines, the incident left massive flight delays as take-offs and landings were suspended for 32 hours.
The departure lobby of NAIA terminals 1,2,3 and 4 were all filled with passengers awaiting resumption of flights. It was only after the sixth day since the incident began that the flight cycle was able to catch up to its normal pace.
Poe, during a Senate hearing requested to be convened to look into the incident, said there are apparent shortcomings committed by administrators.
“NAIA general manager Eddie Monreal himself has said they were not able to provide for the needs of the stranded passengers,” Poe said.
“They have contingencies for such incidents, I am sure, as any other international airport in the world has theirs, but what was clear was that protocols set for such eventualities clearly were not followed,” Poe said.
Earlier Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade apologised to the thousands of passengers affected by the runway incident. He described the incident involving a Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 aircraft as “an eye-opener”.
“It is a reminder for us to take a second look at the processes, procedures, and protocols of concerned agencies, as well as airlines, so that we may all improve in the future,” Tugade said.
Poe said that other than a public apology, airport authorities must ensure that such incidents will not happen in the future and that contingencies will automatically kick in the event such occurrences take place.
Among the thousands affected by the delay in flights were overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were supposed to return to work or start their employment on the days the flights at the NAIA were affected.
The shortcomings of airport authorities in commiserating with the difficulties were partly cushioned by the P5,000 [Dh343] cash assistance provided by them at the airport though the Department of Foreign Affairs Assistance to Nationals Fund.