DOTC imposes moratorium on new flights to ease NAIA congestion

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas today announced several measures that the department is implementing to address current runway congestion issues at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) due to the growing air transport industry in the country.
“We have a runway congestion problem today; we all got here collectively,” Roxas said. “Hindi natin namalayan na may runway traffic na umusbong sa pagdami ng mga aircraft population at flight schedules sa loob ng nakaraang mga taon.”
Statistics gathered by the DOTC shows that air fleet population of commercial airlines today has doubled to 119 compared with only 62 in 2008. As of 2006, these aircrafts also serviced a total of 18 million passengers that went up to 30 million last year. Aircraft movements, or takeoffs and landings at NAIA also went up to 255,000 in 2011 compared with 171,000 in 2006.
NAIA’s runways can only accommodate an average of 36 events (takeoffs and landings) per hour, but actual scheduled commercial and general aviation flights, including fish runs, went to as high as 50 events per hour during the daytime this summer season, resulting to a congested runway that caused flight delays and cancellations.
“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, [ganoon] pa rin. ‘Yan ang dahilan kung bakit nagkakaroon ng congestion na sanhi ng napakaraming mga delays,” Roxas said.
“Walang nagnanais na maging ganito ang sitwasyon; ito ay nangyari dahil sa pag-usbong ng ating industriya, lalong-lalo na ng ating domestic tourism industry. Nangyari ito dahil bawat airline company ay bumili ng mga bagong eroplano at dinagdagan ‘yung kanilang mga fleet. Over the years, hindi namalayan, nagkaroon na tayo ng traffic na ganito,” Roxas explained during a press conference also attended by the chief executive officers of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Air.
Short- and long-term measures
Roxas said, based on discussion and cooperation with various airline companies, that the DOTC has come up with a number of immediate short-term and long-term measures in increasing the capacity of NAIA’s runway and demand management redistribution.
First, Roxas said, NAIA will be declared a “captain’s runway,” meaning only captains can operate a takeoff or landing on the runway. Currently, first officers are allowed to facilitate flight takeoff of an aircraft as part of their training. With this measure, only the pilot in command shall have full control during takeoffs and landings, ensuring that a flight is within the average of 100 seconds/movement.
As part of redistributing the demand, the DOTC is transferring commercial flights to and from night-rated airports to airports that have night landing capabilities. 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 that airlines have agreed to conduct a study to adjust their schedules in order to transfer most of their flights to night-rated airports instead of lumping them all during the daytime.
He said this would not happen immediately because the airline companies had already sold a lot of tickets for future flights, but this would happen in due time.
Complimenting this measure is making 14 more provincial airports to be night-rated. These airports are Tagbilaran, Legazpi, Dumaguete, Butuan, Ozamis, Cotabato, Naga, Dipolog, Roxas, Pagadian, Tuguegarao, Busuanga, Surigao, and San Jose, Mindoro. Estimated budget needed to night-rate these 14 airports is about P800M, exclusive of operational expenses.
Another measure is the lowering of fees for takeoffs and landings at nighttime and increasing them at daytime. Fees for slots at 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. will double, whereas fees for slots at 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will decrease by 25 percent.
Transfer of general aviation flights to Sangley
Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado said they are in discussions with the Department of National Defense to transfer all general aviation flights to Sangley Point in Cavite City within a month. There are 82 general aviation flights per day in NAIA, including fish runs. This measure will help decongest the NAIA runway.
Tourism flights, such as those going to Amanpulo, Batanes, or El Nido, will only be allowed one cycle (one landing and one takeoff) per company within the peak period of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Right now, tourism flights are not limited. With this measure, it is expected to save an extra five to seven flights a day.
To enhance the runway’s capacity, Roxas said that the construction of two rapid exit taxiways worth P300M each is being fast-tracked and is expected for completion early next year.
This will boost the airport’s flight handling capacity from 36 to a target of 45 events. At 36 events, an aircraft exits the runway in one minute and 40 seconds, whereas at 45 events, an aircraft exits the runway in one minute and 20 seconds.
Commercial flight arrivals and departures will also be batched or grouped together to improve runway usage. The plan is that from 7 a.m. to 7:15 a.m., ten takeoffs will be allowed, followed by ten landings at 7:15 to 7:30 a.m. This translates to an additional two to four movements per hour.