By Benjie Lim Vergara
THE ramp controllers of the Philippines’ premier airport on Sunday admitted having a hard time find parking bays for foreign airlines due to the huge volume traffic the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is experiencing following the reopening of runway 06/24 which was temporarily blocked by a Boeing 737-800 of Xiamen Airlines which crash landed last week.
“The number of aircraft has doubled since Saturday when it started to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after runway 06/24 has reopened,” Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) senior ramp controller Manny Hortaleza said.
He said ramp controllers are too busy directing pilots where to park their respective aircraft upon landing, as well as when to push back out of the bays for departing planes.
Algier Ramo, another senior ramp controller, said hours after the runway was cleared of obstruction and debris from Xiamen Air incident, they received “unceasing” requests from the local and foreign aircraft asking bay assignments or where to park.
The two senior ramp controllers said that there are 29 foreign airlines and a local airline operating at the terminal 1. Some of these airlines are operating twice or three flights a day, while other airlines are operating four times a day.
“When NAIA runway operation resumed, certain airlines wanted to ferry their stranded passengers out of Manila, in an effort to bring back the normalcy of their flight operations,” Ramo stressed.
He added that on a normal duty, only two ramp controllers were assigned per shift, but on Saturday, the MIAA deployed five ramp controllers every shift to work together to help decongest the ramp area with foreign aircraft.
Meanwhile, MIAA general manager Ed Monreal has urged the airlines to be cooperative with the authority after he learned or received an information that a certain airline company “has mounted recovery flights without even letting us know.”
The MIAA executive, however, said he is not blaming the airline, which he declined to identify, because the airline has only wanted to ease their problem.
“I urge them to coordinate with the MIAA before mounting any recovery flights,” Monreal said, adding, it will only add pressure to the present situation of the airport.
He said that before the reopening of the runway, the MIAA gave an instruction to the airlines to coordinate with them if they (airlines) have plans regarding its operations.
A quite number of passengers are still stranded at the NAIA terminals particularly at the Terminal 1.
Monreal said the process of normalcy is ongoing, “we’re hoping, maybe it will be able to go back to normal operations.”
“Since we reopen the airport’s runway, as of yesterday (Saturday) until this morning, we have accounted 681 flights which consists of domestic operations and international. That’s an average of 200 passengers a flight or an average of 136,200 passengers in and out of NAIA,” Monreal said.
The airport official asked why quite number of passengers are still stranded at NAIA in which he replied that it is the airline companies who could ease the present problem because they have the control, the logistics – planes, schedules, how many pilots and crew they want to deploy, and to mount flights.
“We only accommodate. I leave it to the airlines to plan their own logistics, schedules. The MIAA will accept it as long as the airlines inform them,” Monreal said.
Asked about the plight of OFWs who feared of losing their jobs because they failed to return to their employers on time, Monreal said that the airlines should take care of them, the welfare of the OFWs.
He said he had asked the Airline Operators Council (AOC), an association of foreign and local airlines operating at NAIA, to assist passengers for humanitarian reason during the times of such situation like this, and to give them certification to explain to OFWs’ employers that it is not the fault of the OFWs why they failed to return on the day of their duty or work after spending vacation in the Philippines.
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