The leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday has extended to six months—from the original 45 days—the deadline for airlines to transfer some of their flights to Clark International Airport (CIA) to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
However, Cebu Pacific said the plan would lead to the cancellation of thousands of flights, aside from displacing millions of passengers.
In a news conference, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said the six-month period is the recommendation of the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) to complete terminal rationalization at Manila’s airport.
The rationalization plan seeks to transfer some domestic flights to the CIA. Under the plan, Terminals 1 and 3 would be used for international flights, while Terminals 2 and 4 would be allocated to domestic flights.
With this, Miaa General Manager Ed V. Monreal said all of Philippine Airlines’s (PAL) international flights to Terminal 1 will be removed. Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways and Saudia Airlines, however, will continue to operate in Terminal 1.
Terminal 2 would be for domestic flights of PAL, PAL Express and Cebu Pacific. The international flights of 27 foreign carriers would be transferred to Terminal 3.
Monreal said Terminal 4 would still be used by Air Asia, Cebgo, Sky Jet and Air Swift.
“That’s the recommendation of airport authorities. So from 45 days [I agreed to extend it to six months], because they have reasonable assessment,” Alvarez said.
Earlier, Alvarez told Miaa and airlines to take appropriate steps to decongest passenger and air traffic in Manila’s airport, or they will face possible graft charges for failing to protect the public’s welfare.
According to Alvarez, it is only in the Philippines where mixed use of airports is allowed, where airports designed for domestic traffic also handle international flights, while airports designed for international flights also take in domestic flights.
If necessary, the Speaker said, airport authorities should divert flights to other airports, such as CIA, to ease the congestion at Naia.
The Speaker also warned airlines to comply with government rules or face possible cancellation of their franchises.
During the House Committee on Transportation hearing, Cebgo President Alexander Lao, however, opposed the rationalization plan, saying: “All of the gains of the Philippines in stimulating air travel will disappear in one stroke.”
Cebu Pacific, in its position paper submitted to House Committee on Transportation, said that, while it supporting the government’s efforts in seeking solutions to improve the experience of passengers who use the Naia, many operational and asset efficiencies cannot be realized with split terminals.
“Segregation of international and domestic operations has a major adverse effect on Miaa’s ability to act in a hub capacity and deliver seamless passenger transfer capability, impacting domestic travelers, tourists and OFWs [overseas Filipino worker],” Cebu Pacific said.
“The proposed terminal reassignment does not solve the overall capacity challenges in Miaa and, indeed, adds additional pressures to the already-limited facilities and infrastructure, requiring a significant cut to all airlines services that will be required to be implemented equitably,” it added. According to Cebu Pacific, CIA is not an alternative airport for Manila, with its distance and being a separate catchment area. The capacity of the CIA is only 2.7 million per annum, which means more than 5 million passengers would be displaced.
“Our proposal that would see the construction of a new concourse within the existing Terminal 3 area and be designated as Terminal 3 Domestic, but will leverage the common infrastructure, terminal and ramp areas of the current Terminal 3 [and which will later become Terminal 3 International]. We estimate this will increase total Terminal 3 capacity from 14 million to 28 million,” the airline said.
It also assured the public and the government that certain steps are now being implemented to ensure that passengers inconvenience is minimized.
Meanwhile, PAL Head of Operations Ismael Gozon said the company supports the objective of terminal rationalization and the intended timelines set by airport authorities.