Philippines NAIA: Power outage leaves thousands stranded, flights canceled on New Years

Philippines NAIA: Power outage leaves thousands stranded, flights canceled on New Years
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(CNN) chaos broke out in New Year’s Day in the Philippines after a severe power outage temporarily disrupted air traffic control at the country’s largest airport, disrupting hundreds of flights and stranding tens of thousands of travelers in central Southeast Asia.

Despite power being restored, some travelers are still having difficulty rebooking and continuing to their final destinations.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) is the main gateway for travelers to the Philippines, serving the capital Manila and the surrounding region.

The technical problems were first detected on Sunday morning, the airport’s 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 pm local time on New Year’s Day.

Behind the scenes

At a press conference held on the evening of Sunday, January 1, Philippine Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience caused to passengers and said that the airport’s central air traffic control system had suffered a failure. strong power outage. Although there was a backup power source, it had not been able to provide enough power, he added.

“This was an air traffic management system problem,” Bautista said. “If you compare (our airport) with the one in Singapore, for example, there is a big difference: they are at least 10 years ahead of us,” she said.

Bautista added that his transportation department had also coordinated with the affected airlines to provide food, snacks, transportation and lodging “free of charge to all affected passengers.”

Among the flights affected by the airspace disruption was a Manila-bound Qantas plane that departed Sydney shortly before 1 p.m. go back to australia

“All airlines were unable to reach Manila on Sunday afternoon because local airspace was closed by local authorities,” Qantas said in a statement. “This meant our flight from Sydney had to turn around.”

Operations had partially resumed at 5:50 p.m. local time, the CAAP said in an update, and that the airport had once again begun accepting incoming flights. A statement from the Department of Transportation shared on Facebook said airport operations were back to normal while equipment restoration was still ongoing.

A possible investigation

However, flight delays continued through Tuesday for the second day in a row, even after power was fully restored, affiliate CNN Philippines reported. Authorities advised travelers to “expect further delays” as airlines scheduled new flights to replace those that had been cancelled.

“Passengers should expect flight delays because this is a consequence of the recovery operations we are conducting today,” Cielo Villaluna, a spokesperson for Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, told CNN.

He also said that many planes were still stranded as a result of the system problem on New Year’s Day.

Frustrated and weary passengers lamented their loss over what to do as they camped out in front of airline ticketing offices for clarification and early flights.

The incident has sparked a fierce public reaction online, with many, including politicians, questioning how and why the power outage happened in the first place.

Philippine Senator Grace Poe announced an official investigation into the incident. “There has to be transparency and accountability on the part of the CAAP,” Poe said.

“Therefore, we will hold a hearing as part of the Senate’s oversight role, to determine who is responsible and what we need to do to prevent the malfunction from happening again,” Poe added.

passengers weigh

Global air transport was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but passenger traffic has been slowly picking up, with industry experts predicting that the industry will return to previous normal levels by 2025.

Photos and videos shared online showed massive crowds at NAIA. Snaking queues were observed at various check-in counters. Many passengers dragging their luggage were also seen huddled around flight arrival screens waiting for updates.

Manny V. Pangilinan, a Filipino businessman, shared on Twitter that it had returned to Manila from Tokyo, but the plane had to return to Haneda Airport due to “radar and navigation facilities at NAIA being down.”

“Six hours of useless flying,” he said. “The inconvenience for travelers and the losses for tourism and business are horrendous.” His plane finally landed in Manila at 11 pm local time, Pangilinan said.

The student Xavier Fernández was one of the thousands affected by the interruptions of the New Year’s flight. He spent hours on the phone with United Airlines and other airlines to rebook his flight to San Francisco at a later date. “It’s been an absolute nightmare,” he told CNN, adding that he had been at the airport for more than 10 hours.

Fernandez also said that there were other passengers who had boarded their plane on Sunday morning before the power outages were announced and who eventually had to disembark from their planes after waiting several hours to board.

The large-scale flight disruptions come amid a busy annual year-end travel period in the Philippines, in which large numbers of foreign tourists and foreign nationals fly into the country from abroad to mark Christmas and the New Year. New, some of the most important festivities in the country. . celebrations.

Fernández had been 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 Año Nuevo airport crisis also drove 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 was unable to return to Hong Kong on Sunday. She, along with other women who work in the industry, were “unloaded” due to the delays, she said.

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