MANILA – A bad mix of air traffic congestion and inclement weather during the holiday rush triggered chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on Christmas Day.
Juan Lorenzo Tañada, vice president for corporate affairs of Cebu Pacific, said apart from the high number of passengers heading to the provinces for Christmas, the airline had to adjust flight schedules due to the cancellation of several flights because of bad weather.
These factors led to long queues, flight delays and angry passengers at the airport.
“Christmas Day was really a big, big deluge that we experienced, but we experienced a lot of consequential flight delays because of the air traffic congestion. There was inclement weather in some regions and this resulted to a lot of flights being cancelled,” Tañada told ANC on Friday.
He said at least seven flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Virac, and Tuguegarao were affected by bad weather, resulting to flight backlogs since December 23.
He also cited the “sunset limitation” in some domestic airports as one of the reasons why flights were cancelled.
“Some of our major tourist destinations such as Busuanga are unable to accept aircraft after sunset,” he said.
Tañada said the overcrowding may have also been a result of overbooking, but he stressed that “overbooking is an internationally accepted aviation practice to have some buffer.”
Airlines are allowed to overbook flights by 10 percent to compensate for the "no-shows."
Tañada noted that the airline is open to having talks with the Civil Aeronautics Board on policies regarding overbooking during peak seasons.
He also said Cebu Pacific personnel manning check-in and booking counters at the airport were subjected to fatigue after having to work long hours for the holiday peak season, and some came in late or did not report at all on Christmas Day.
“This resulted to some of them coming in late and some not coming at all on the 25th. Even the 26th, some were not able to make it on time or report at all,” he said.
However, Tañada said the airline was able to secure more staff and tapped manpower servicers to provide additional workers. Some international airline crew members were also detailed to domestic flights to give assistance.
Currently, 37 counters of Cebu Pacific are manned. The airline is assigned only 28, but it requested NAIA authorities to open more counters to address the long queues.
“Please try to go to the airport as early as possible and more than that, maybe we can take advantage also of other ways to check in, there are web check-in options and also check-ins via the kiosks available at the terminal. This will help alleviate any backlogs. We are assuring everyone that Cebu Pacific is doing all it can at this point to man our counters,” said Tañada.
He added that those who missed their flights will be given the option to rebook their flights within 30 days or request for refunds.