Flight cancellations spoil Christmas cheer
TACLOBAN CITY – Going home for Christmas became a nightmare for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors Angel and Joel Labro when their flight from Manila to Tacloban was cancelled not once but twice.
“May fear kami na di kami makakauli hit Christmas (We feared we would not be home for Christmas),” Angel Labro said, recalling the ordeal they went through just to be with their families in the province during the holidays.
In November, the Labro couple booked flights via Tigerair for December 21. The tickets were rebooked to December 22, only to be cancelled again a day before. They finally made it to Leyte on December 23 after getting stranded for hours in Manila and Cebu airports due to connecting flight delays and airport congestion.
The flight changes caused chaos and confusion among thousands of travellers bound for Tacloban, the gateway to many parts of Eastern Visayas. Many disappointed passengers took to social networking sites like Facebook to share their ordeal.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) closed the domestic airport to big jets like Airbus A320 and Boeing B737 from September 4 to December 3 to allow runway repairs. While the restriction was in effect, only smaller aircraft like turbo-propeller planes that mainly came from Cebu were allowed on the runway. (READ: Tacloban airport closed to large aircraft till December 3)
Local business affected
Local businessmen also hit aviation authorities and the transportation department for the last-minute cancellations of holiday flights even as the city’s airport resumed normal operation on Monday evening, December 22.
“Itsa-itsa manla it bola kun hin-o ma-instruction. DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) naman, CAAP naman. Ano ba ini nga iyo trabaho?” Tacloban Chinese-Filipino Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jackson Uy told media in a press conference Tuesday evening, December 23. (They are passing the buck. Sometimes it’s the DOTC that gives the instruction; other times CAAP does it. What are you doing?)
The cancellations hurt local businesses, costing the local economy millions of pesos, according to Uy.
“An mga ticket nga na-cancel, makalilisang…An tinuod la, damo an nag-backout nga mga turista, damo an nag-back-out nga mga bakasyunista because hiton nga ira kabutangan,” Uy said. (The number of tickets that were cancelled is appalling, In truth, many tourists and vacationists backed out because of the ordeal they went through.)
“Dako iton nga nawara nga negosyo dinhin ha aton region. Maaram ka, vital ito hin duro nga transportation,” stressed Uy. (Business in the region has lost a lot because of the situation. Transportation is vital to the economy.)
Back to normal
Citing delays in ongoing asphalt overlay work caused by Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) and bad weather, CAAP moved the reopening of the airport to large aircraft from December 3 to December 22.
December 22 was the first time an Airbus 320 landed at the airport since rehabilitation started in September.
“With the opening of our runway to bigger aircraft, we can accommodate all airline companies utilizing Airbus 320,” Tacloban airport officer in charge Allan Cahingcoy told Rappler.
The entire stretch of the 2,140-meter runway is now functional, according to Cahingcoy. The CAAP official admitted a 600-meter portion of the runway is not yet covered with asphalt but stressed it is still usable, and will be rehabilitated after the visit of Pope Fancis in January 2015.
On Tuesday, December 23, at least 5 large aircraft of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Air Asia landed in Tacloban. Cebu Pacific and Tigerair resumed Manila-Tacloban Christmas flights the following day, December 24. On the same day, 9 Airbus planes - Cebu Pacific (3), Tigerair (2), PAL (2), Air Asia (2) - were scheduled to fly to Tacloban. – Rappler.com