Philippines NAIA: Power outage leaves thousands stranded and flights canceled on New Years Day
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) is the primary gateway for travelers to the Philippines, serving the capital city of Manila and the surrounding region.
Technical problems were first detected on Sunday morning, the airport operator, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said in a statement.
A total of 282 flights were delayed, canceled or diverted to other regional airports while around 56,000 passengers were affected as of 4 p.m. local time on New Year’s Day, it added. It is unclear how many overflights were affected, Reuters reported.
At a press conference on the evening of Sunday, January 1, Philippine Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience caused to passengers and said that the central air traffic control system of the airport had suffered a severe power outage. Although there was an emergency power supply, it did not provide enough power, he added.
“It was an air traffic management system issue,” Bautista said. “If you compare (our airport) with Singapore, on the one hand there is a big difference – they are at least 10 years ahead of us,” he said.
Bautista added that its transportation department had also coordinated with affected airlines to provide food, refreshments, transportation and accommodation “free of charge to all affected passengers.”
Among the flights affected by the airspace blackout was a Qantas plane bound for Manila which took off from Sydney shortly before 1 p.m. local time on January 1. Three hours into its eight-hour journey, flight QF19 was then forced to turn back in midair and return to Australia.
“All airlines were prevented from arriving in Manila on Sunday afternoon as local authorities closed local airspace,” Qantas said in a statement. “That meant our flight from Sydney had to turn around.”
Operations had partially resumed as of 5:50 p.m. local time, CAAP said in an update, and the airport had resumed accepting inbound flights. A Department of Transportation statement shared on Facebook said airport operations had returned to normal while equipment restoration was still underway.
But other flight cancellations continued through Monday, January 2, CNN Philippines affiliate reported.
Frustrated and weary passengers lamented their loss over what to do as they camped outside airline ticket offices for clarification and early flights.
The incident has sparked a backlash from the public online – with many, including politicians, wondering how and why the blackout happened in the first place.
“What a way to welcome the New Year to our nation’s airports,” Philippine Senator Grace Poe said in an official tweet. Monday. “We will investigate to find out who is responsible and how we can prevent this from happening again.”
Global air travel has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but passenger traffic has slowly recovered, with industry experts predicting the industry will return to previous normal levels by 2025.
Photos and videos shared online showed massive crowds at NAIA. Winding queues were observed at several check-in counters. Many passengers dragging their luggage were also seen huddled around flight arrival screens waiting for updates.
“Six hours of wasted flying,” he said. “The inconvenience to travelers and the loss to tourism and business is horrendous.” His plane finally landed in Manila at 11 p.m. local time, Pangilinan said.
Student Xavier Fernandez was one of thousands affected by New Year’s flight disruptions. He spent hours on the phone with United Airlines and other airlines to book his flight to San Francisco at a later date. “It was a real nightmare” he told CNN, adding that he had been at the airport for more than 10 hours.
Fernandez also said other passengers boarded their plane on Sunday morning before the news of the power outages and eventually had to disembark their plane after waiting several hours on board.
The large-scale flight disruptions come amid a busy year-end travel season in the Philippines, which sees large numbers of foreign tourists as well as foreign citizens flying into the country from abroad to mark Christmas and the New Year, some of the most important holidays in the country. celebrations.
Fernandez was in Manila to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with his family.
“Literally the worst way to start the year,” he said of the episode.
The New Year’s airport crisis also threw many Filipinos working abroad off their flights to destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore.
Nora Dela Cruz, a domestic worker, told CNN her job was “now in limbo” after she failed to return to Hong Kong on Sunday. She, along with other women who work in the industry, have been “discharged” due to the delays, she said.