PAL on govt request to cut NAIA flights: Yes, we’ll cooperate
Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas says tight scheduling of flights cause of runway traffic at NAIA

MANILA, Philippines – The new management of Philippine Airlines (PAL) is willing to do what most carriers won’t to decongest the country’s main airport: reduce flights.

Newly installed PAL president Ramon Ang said the flag carrier will “cooperate” with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on the latter’s request to cut the number of flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to ease traffic on its runways.

“Yes, we will cooperate,” said Ang, who is also president of conglomerate San Miguel Corp., which recently bought a 49% stake in PAL.

Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas earlier blamed the tight scheduling of airlines’ flights for the delays experienced by NAIA passengers.

He said around 45 takeoffs and landings are scheduled per hour at NAIA, higher than the airport’s ideal capacity of only 36.

Roxas claimed airlines are booking most flights during peak hours.

Airlines, however, argued that aviation officials must share some of the blame too.

Gokongwei-owned budget carrier Cebu Pacific said that aviation officials should come up with a well-managed airport slotting, which dictates the specific time an airline is to land and take off from NAIA, to prevent congestion.

“As the airline industry grows, it is very important to plan ahead to be at par with other international airports,” said Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog.

Southeast Asian Airlines president Avelino Zapanta, on the other hand, said that the government should force small aircraft out of NAIA.

“The DOTC must have the political will to transfer general aviation out of NAIA. These small aircraft with usually less than five passengers eat up some 17% of total takeoffs and landings. Imagine the benefit to the economy if each of those flights is replaced with 198 or more passenger-configurated aircraft. Why remove the bigger contributor to the economy?” Zapanta said.

Zest Airways, for its part, said that reducing airlines’ flights would bring about a “grandfather issue.”

“Who among us will reduce flights? If I only mount twice a week flights to a certain route as against the daily flights of a bigger carrier, will both of us reduce the same number of flights?” said Art Alejandrino, a director of ZestAir.

While most of the airlines are not amenable to reducing their flights, Roxas said they will be forced to do so if they don’t heed the government’s request. –

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