CAAP: Airlines OK with 45-min ground time

Judith Balea
The regulator met with flight operations officials of airlines July 17 regarding a plan to increase the turnaround time at airports to 45 minutes

EXTENDED GROUND TIME. Government regulators want Cebu Pacific to extend to 45 minutes the time it spends offloading and loading passengers and inspecting its aircraft. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Airlines have expressed willingness to comply with a government plan to increase turnaround time for domestic flights to enhance safety, according to an official of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

CAAP officials met with the vice presidents for flight operations of airlines on the planned industry-wide increase in turnaround time to 45 minutes morning of Wednesday, July 17, and the consensus was “in the affirmative,” CAAP deputy director general John Andrews told Rappler in a phone interview.

“We discussed the issue thoroughly this morning… and based on the Q&A (question and answer), they (airlines) are willing to comply,” Andrews said Wednesday.

The regulator wants to increase turnaround time – or the time between plane take-offs and landings – at airports in an effort to boost safety following two landing mishaps involving Cebu Pacific planes in June.

Andrews said they were supposed to impose this on Cebu Pacific alone, but felt it would be best to make it mandatory for other airlines, too.

He said, however, that they needed to consult with the players first to address their concerns.

“We talked to the flight operations officials and we agreed that for us, what is more important is safety. But I’m still waiting for the official, written feedback from them.”

Andrews said if the plan pushes through, the extended turnaround time would be implemented by October 1 “after they’ve (airlines) submitted their winter flight schedules.”

Cebu Pacific and other low-cost carriers observe a turnaround time of only 25 minutes – the world standard – allowing them to maximize the utilization of their aircraft and offer low fares.

The more time they spend in the air than on the ground, the better. Ground time is used for offloading passengers, refueling and loading again.

Philippines AirAsia CEO Maan Hontiveros said, “we believe we can fly safely and still achieve our turnaround time of 25 minutes.”

“However, we never compromise safety for on-time performance. If an aircraft needs to stay on the ground longer for necessary checks, it will stay for as long as it has to.

“We are willing to listen to CAAP and know what their recommendations are,” she added.

Impact on fares

Hontiveros said extending turnaround time would entail added costs for carriers.

“Of course, it will affect [our] operations. It will entail more time on the ground. There is also operational issues regarding slots. It’s gonna change all the slot times.”

Another airline executive who requested not to be named said a longer turnaround time might result in losses for budget airlines.

“That’s their lifeline. The endeavor of airlines is to cut short the ground time to optimize the utilization of the aircraft,” the executive said.

Hontiveros also said that added costs might prompt airlines to raise fares.

But Andrews shrugged this off. “What dictates domestic prices is, ultimately, market forces. The more demand and less supply, the higher the fares.” –

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