‘Resume Davao airport operations asap’

(UPDATE) Transportation Secretary Abaya orders the civil aviation body to clear the Davao Airport runway within the day to allow flights to resume at the country's 3rd busiest airport

CLEAR AWAY. The government wants aviation officials to immediately remove the Cebu Pacific aircraft that overshot and currently obstructing the Davao airport runway. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya ordered the civil aviation body to clear the Davao Airport runway within the day to allow the resumption of flights at one of the country’s busiest airports.

On Monday, June 3, Abaya instructed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to exert all efforts to remove the Cebu Pacific aircraft that overshot the runway on Sunday, June 2, causing the temporary closure of the airport and affecting hundreds of passengers.

Abaya’s instructions were relayed to reporters by Transportation Department spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal.

Abaya said in a text message to Rappler: “It will take 2 to 3 hours to get the plane out with the equipment in place. We won’t move the plane if not cleared by the investigating team.”

In its latest advisory, CAAP said the airport is scheduled to re-open at 8 pm Monday.

Investigators from CAAP arrived at the Davao international airport via General Santos City to immediately conduct investigation and extract the aircraft out, Sagcal said.

Civil Aviation spokesman Eric Apolonio said workers on the ground estimated it would take until Monday night to safely remove the plane.

“We do not want to cause any extensive damage to the airplane and the runway,” he said. “There will be no flights to and from Davao until then.”

Amid bad weather, a Cebu Pacific Airbus A320-200 plane carrying 165 passengers from Manila crash landed. No casualties or injuries were reported as passengers and crews disembarked safely.

“All the passengers were safe,” airline spokeswoman Candice Iyog told AFP. “We do not know exactly what caused the airplane to swerve, but we are cooperating with the accident investigators.”

Cebu Pacific re-routed its 20 Davao flights to General Santos, which is at least two hours away. It is mounting extra flights to accommodate passengers flying both Davao and General Santos routes.

Legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its unit PAL Express are also re-routing their Davao flights to General Santos. Bigger aircraft will be used instead of their standard-sized planes to accommodate the affected passengers.

READ: Airlines deal with Davao airport closure

The local airlines are providing free land transport between Davao and General Santos, food and drinks, and are waiving rebooking fees.

AirAsia Philippines cancelled its Davao-Clark flights.

Passenger rights

The chief of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), which is tasked to oversee the economic aspects of the ailrine industry, reminded the public of the existing Air Passenger Bill of Rights. 

READ: 6 rights you have as an airline passenger

“We have regulations in the event of complications or flights being cancelled or diverted to another airport for the provision of food and transportation and rebooking,” CAB chief Carmelo Arcilla told Rappler in a phone interview.

“Usually the airlines follow certain guidelines if flights are cancelled. Passengers need to be rebooked or their flights refunded.”

When asked if there are regulations dictating if and when passengers should be evacuated, he replied: “Under that situation, it’s the airline who could better assess the situation before deciding whether to evacuated the passenger or if their health is at risk.”

He noted that under the Bill of Rights’ full disclosure section, airlines have to tell passengers what incident has occurred. 

3rd busiest airport

Based on CAAP’s 2012 data, the following airlines operate in Davao International Airport, also known as Francisco Bangoy International Airport:

  • International: Silk Air, Tiger Airways, Wings Air
  • Domestic: PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Zest Air, Mid Sea Express, AirAsia, Seair

The Davao airport is the main gateway to Mindanao. It is also the Philippines’ 3rd busiest airport, according to CAAP data.

 Airport name     Location           Passenger movement in 2012  
 Ninoy Aquino International Airport    Manila   33,889,532
 Mactan-Cebu International Airport  Cebu  6,712,293 
 Francisco Bangoy International Airport   Davao  2,963,243
 Diosdado Macapagal International Airport  Clark 1,312,979

Davao airport’s runway has a length of at least 3,000 meters, with an extra or emergency 120-meter space. – with Agence France-Presse, and reports from Aya Lowe and research from Lean Santos/Rappler.com

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