World

The power outage forces the Philippines to ground flights and close its airspace


  • More than 280 delayed flights rerouted on New Year’s Day
  • Transport chief blames power cut for breakdown
  • The system is partially restored, airlines are offering free rebooking

MANILA, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Philippine authorities suspended flights to and from Manila on New Year’s Day due to an air traffic control malfunction that also prevented airlines traveling to other destinations from using the country’s airspace.

A total of 282 flights were delayed, canceled or diverted to other regional airports, affecting about 56,000 passengers at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the airport operator said on Sunday.

It is not clear how many flights were affected.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience to passengers as he blamed the power outage on the failure of the central air traffic control system, which also affected operations at other airports in the country.

He said that the outdated existing facility needs to be upgraded immediately and that a backup system is also needed.

“It’s a problem with the air traffic control system,” he told a media briefing. “If you’re going to compare us to Singapore, for example, there’s a big difference, they’re at least 10 years ahead of us.”

As of 08:00 GMT, “the system has been partially restored, thus allowing limited flight operations,” Manila International Airport said in a statement. By late evening, eight arriving and eight departing flights were allowed, according to the airport operator.

Videos and photos posted on social media showed long lines at the airport and airline staff handing out food and drink packages to stranded passengers.

“We were told that the radar and navigation facilities at NAIA were down. I was on my way home from Tokyo – after a 3 hour flight, but I had to go back to Haneda,” tweeted passenger Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of Philippine telecommunications conglomerate PLDT Inc. .

“6 hours worthless flight but inconvenience to passengers and loss to tourism and business is appalling. Only in PH. Sigh.”

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB.PS) and Philippine Airlines (PAL.PS) said they were offering passengers scheduled to fly on Sunday a free rebooking or the option to convert tickets into vouchers.

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Neil Fullick, Peter Graff and Alison Williams

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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