Time to prepare Clark airport for more flights: transport exec

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2016 05:11 PM

Clark International Airport needs to add more facilities and scale up its resources to accommodate more flights, especially amid emergency flight diversions from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, an official said.

Transportation Undersecretary for Air Operations Bobby Lim said Clark International Airport in Pampanga was not prepared for the sudden surge of flights suddenly diverted to it after the sudden closure of NAIA's runways.

"Clark right now is not designed to accommodate that sudden surge of flights in six, seven-hour period, but for the future, definitely, Clark will be better prepared for that. They are now reviewing their processes," he said Wednesday.

Over a hundred flights were delayed from taking off and landing at NAIA on Monday as emergency repairs were undertaken. At least 28 flights were diverted to the Clark International Airport, while 14 others were cancelled.

Disgruntled passengers have complained over the slow shuttling of diverted commuters back to Manila, the delayed release of food, and authorities refusing to let them disembark from airplanes.

Lim said flight diversions are 'force majure' but the authorities can prepare better for it.

This episode particularly presented to authorities the limitations of the facilities in Clark, which he said, "contributes to the total challenges of processing [the passengers] from air bridges to catering facilities."

Lim said international airlines usually have their own standards of service in cases of planes being placed on standby, designed to challenge each to improve their services. In the States, he cited, the norm is set at four hours of tarmac delay before the aircraft is required to go back.

"But that rule is applied depending on the circumstances. In this case for example, one could imagine that the aircraft or airline concerned would hope to continue their flight from Clark to Manila," he said.

Though that is ideal, he said it may not always be possible.

He said Secretary Arthur Tugade has already directed an engagement with the airlines for a consultation, and asked them to review their policies.

DECONGESTING MANILA AIRPORT

Meanwhile, apart from the improvement of the airport, Lim said there is also a need to create roads connecting Manila to Clark and Clark to elsewhere in the north to make it a hub for tourism.

He also reported that a team will be heading to Sangley in Lipa, Batangas to do an ocular and assess what improvements can be implemented in the existing facility to be able to cater to more general aviation aircrafts.

"Every aircraft that you remove from Manila airspace—in the air or in the ground—will help decongest Manila," he said.

He said private jet owners are willing to comply with the department's suggestion to move private planes out of Manila.

But ultimately, the decongestion of NAIA is the priority since building a new airport may take up to a decade to finish. Lim said a combination of measures is already underway.

"You have process that can be improved within the airport, systems to adopt to improve the airport from the terminal to the use of the service ramp," he said.

He said the department has already tapped NATS, a British company that manages Heathrow Airport in London, to conduct a study for their 'Runway Optimization' project.

"They have completed part of the report. There will be a meeting next week. It will be presented to CAAP [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines] and Manila [International] Airport [Authority] so that things can start to be implemented. We look forward to what those exact procedure systems will be," he said.