NAIA’s terminal case: What went wrong after an airline’s bad landing

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A Xiamen Airlines aircraft is being extracted from the main runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Aug. 17, 2018. (STAR/Edd Gumban)

(Updated 3:34 p.m.) Several flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been cancelled following the crash landing of a Boeing 737-8000 owned by Xiamen Air last week. Citizens and officials have begun to search for answers and solutions as the tangle of stranded passengers remains thick.

Chaos at the airport

At least 69 flights were cancelled on Sunday, affecting around 13,000 passengers.

About 200 flights from different airlines had previously been cancelled on Friday, the day after the Xiamen Air aircraft with 165 passengers overshot the runway at the country’s main airport.

The Philippines’ airlines have revealed the staggering number of affected passengers. Philippine Airlines revealed that its 68 cancelled flights affected 18,810 passengers while its 21 diverted flights affected 5,483 more.

Long lines and stranded passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday, August 18, 2018, two days after a Xiamen Air flight overshot the runway upon landing. (STAR/Rudy Santos)

Budget airline Cebu Pacific meanwhile related that it was assisting around 20,000 affected passengers from its cancellations and diversions, not including those affected by delayed flights.

Several travelers have shared stories and images from the chaos at the airport in the days after the crash.

The airport’s troubles have reached a number of government officials, including Sen. Grace Poe, who expressed her frustration and called for an immediate investigation into the chaos.

Sen. JV Ejercito, who had just left Davao a few days after the Xiamen aircraft’s mishap, related how some workers at NAIA left the scene, leading to stalled movement at the airport.

In another tweet, he suggested that a twin airport system may be the answer to NAIA’s congestion problem.

Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, announced the she will be opening an inquiry into the operational procedures of airport personnel in responding to such emergency situations.

Xiamen Air did something else

Some have called for Xiamen Air to be penalized for sending four recovery flights to NAIA without proper coordination with Manila’s airport authorities following the recovery of its damaged Boeing 737.

The recovery flights caused other airlines to delay or cancel their flights, as NAIA’s runway remained congested.

The sheer number of cancelled and delayed flights led to the volume of passengers stuck in the airport.

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal however said that his agency did not have the authority to penalize airlines that snubbed airport protocol, reported ABS-CBN news.

Monreal also said that the MIAA will be joining the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in investigating the matter.

What else went wrong?

Bad weather conditions and miscommunication between pilots and airline control personnel are the other factors being looked at that may have caused the trouble on the runway. Strong rainfall in Metro Manila was noted on the evening of the accident.

Monreal at a press conference on Monday afternoon said they discovered 61 recovery flights which were not properly coordinated with authorities, leading to further congestion on the runway.

As there is only a limited number of parking slots on the runway at any given time, several flights were delayed due to the pile-up.

He added that Xiamen Air has since apologized for the trouble and will work with Philippine air transport authorities on further investigation.