MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is implementing a moratorium on new daytime flights, as it announced new measures to address the runway congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
"We have a runway congestion problem today, we all got here collectively," Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said, after a closed-door meeting with airline executives from Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air on Tuesday.
Based on DOTC data, commercial airlines doubled their fleet from 62 in 2008 to 119 at present. In 2006, airlines only serviced 18 million passengers, but this grew to 30 million last year. Takeoffs and landings at NAIA also increased to 255,000 in 2011 compared to 171,000 in 2006.
NAIA's runways can only accommodate 36 takeoffs and landings per hour. But during the peak summer season, it usually has as much as 50 events an hour during the day.
"Dahil sa pagdami ng bilang at gamit ng mga eroplano, kaya nagkaka-traffic. Eh hindi naman lumapad o humaba ang ating runway. Kung baga, dumami ang mga bus sa EDSA, yung EDSA, ganun pa rin. Yan ang dahilan kung bakit nagkakaroon ng congestion na sanhi ng napakaraming mga delays," Roxas said.
More night flights
The DOTC, in coordination with airlines, laid out plans to address air traffic congestion with the hope of reducing flight delays at the NAIA.
First, the NAIA will be designated as a captain's runway only, which means only a captain should have full control of an aircraft during takeoffs and landings. The DOTC believes it may take longer for a less experienced pilot to take-off or land a plane.
The DOTC is also planning to increase night flights by transferring commercial flights to and from night-rated airports. Aside from Manila, airports that have night landing capabilities are Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Kalibo, Tacloban, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, General Santos and Laoag.
Roxas said airlines agreed to conduct a study on adjusting the schedules to transfer their flights at night, instead of just having daytime flights. However, this is expected to take time since airlines have already sold a lot of future tickets based on their current schedule.
The DOTC is also looking to turn 14 provincial airports into night-rated airports, which would require a budget of P800 million, excluding operational expenses. These airports are Tagbilaran, Legazpi, Dumaguete, Butuan, Ozamis, Cotabato, Naga, Dipolog, Roxas, Pagadian, Tuguegarao, Busuanga, Surigao and San Jose, Mindoro.
To encourage night flights, fees for takeoffs and landings during the evening will be reduced, while fees for the daytime will be increased. Fees for slots between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. will double while fees for slots from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will be reduced by 25%.
General flights transferred to Sangley
Meanwhile, the Manila International Airport Authority is in talks with the Department of National Defense to transfer all general aviation flights to Sangley Point, Cavite in a month's time. This is expected to decongest the NAIA runway, since there are 82 general aviation flights a day.
Companies that run tourism flights, such as those to Amanpulo, Batanes or El Nido, will only be allowed 1 takeoff and 1 landing each between the peak hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Currently, there are no limits to tourism flights.
Two rapid exit taxiways worth P300 million each will be constructed. They are expected to be completed early 2013. They are expected to increase airports' flight handling capacity from 36 to a target of 45 events.
Commercial flight arrivals and departures will also be grouped together to improve runway usage. Based on the plan, from 7 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. 10 takeoffs will be allowed, followed by 10 landings at 7:15 to 7:30 am. This is expected to add 2 to 4 movements per hour.
Terminal fees incorporated in airfares
The terminal fee for domestic flights will be included in the airline tickets starting August 1, according to Roxas.
Domestic flight passengers will pay the terminal fee when they pay for their airline tickets. This means no more lines at the domestic airports to pay the terminal fee.
At the NAIA, the terminal fee for domestic flights is P200.
Those who are exempted from paying the terminal fee may get a refund after going through immigration. - With report from Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News