Naia Terminal 2 to become domestic hub of PAL, Cebu Pacific

Even before House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez’s rant at a congressional hearing on Wednesday on the sorry state of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), the keeper of the Philippines’s main gateway has already initiated a program to fix the airport’s mess.

Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) General Manager Eddie V. Monreal, for one, told the BusinessMirror that they are embarking on a P600-million renovation of the Naia Terminal 2.

This is meant “to enlarge it and accommodate PAL [Philippine Airlines] and Cebu Pacific, purely for domestic operations.”

“The Naia 2 and Naia 4 [Manila Domestic Airport] would be for purely domestic flights, while Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 would be purely for international flights,” Monreal stressed.

He said the face-lift is scheduled for completion in 18 months from the awarding of contract.

“We’re in the process of  procurement; there is no definite date yet,” Monreal said, adding that the fund would be sourced from Miaa’s purse.

Alvarez was apparently not aware of this, as he threatened to sue Monreal and other airport officials for graft should they fail to take “appropriate steps” to decongest passenger and air traffic in Manila’s airport within 45 days.

“They have to comply, otherwise we will file graft cases against them for failure to do their job in protecting the welfare of the public,” Alvarez told the BusinessMirror.

When asked to comment, Monreal said: “The face-lift is a separate issue from the 45-day deadline.”

PAL top honcho Jaime J. Bautista welcomes the announcement of Miaa to make Terminals 2 and 4 as domestic hubs.

However, there seems to be confusion on the order of Alvarez for PAL and Cebu Pacific to relocate excess flights to Clark in 45 days.

“If I understand it correctly, [the directive] is to convert the Naia 2 into all-domestic flights. If we cannot be accommodated there, then we transfer to Clark,” Bautista said during the demonstration flight of A350-1000, the latest model in the Airbus family of two-aisle airplanes.

A fuming Alvarez directed Miaa to put its operations in order within 45 days and transfer excess local flights to Clark International Airport.

He even berated Cebu Pacific President Lance Gokongwei for suggesting 100 days to transfer to Clark during the hearing of the Committee on Transportation that the Speaker heads.

When the BusinessMirror asked Bautista if PAL would be able to obey the 45-day deadline, he said: “I think they will study it very carefully. That’s what they said. It’s difficult to say.”

He noted that PAL has already transferred some of its domestic operations to Clark last year.

He said they were told that once completed, Terminal 2 would be able to accommodate 12 million passengers annually.

“Our international flights will transfer to T3 [Terminal 3] and T1 if we follow their [Miaa] plan. To us it’s more favorable operating only in two terminals.”

Bautista said PAL is the only airline that operates in three terminals: T1 for Middle East and arrival from the United States, T2 for domestic and international, and T3 for domestic.

“You know the cost of operations is much, much higher compared with the other airlines because airplanes move from one terminal to another.”

“As a result, PAL is not able to maximize utilization of our aircraft. To move one airplane from one terminal to another takes about one hour from T1 to T2, so instead of flying, our airplanes are parked then towed.”

Bautista endorsed the A350-1000 as a better version of the A350-900, six of which PAL expects to be delivered this year.

Asked if PAL would buy A350-1000, which can seat 370 passengers against the 295 that A350-900 can seat, he said it is possible.

“The six on order cannot be replaced because four are already in the production line, but the remaining two could be converted into the A350-1000. But we need six, so maybe additional order of six more A350-1000,” he added, saying that PAL has six more additional options that it can exercise in 2019.

He said Airbus imposed no deadline on when to deliver the six more options, but added, “probably for the 2020 delivery.”

Airbus invited 70 airline executives, Department of Transportation (DOTr) officials and members of the media for an hourlong demonstration.

The take-off at the Naia was a spine-tingling 45-degree angle, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

The front fan is just less than 10 feet across (9.8) and sucks in up to 1.3 tons of air every second at take-off.

Here are the stats:

  • High-pressure turbine blades inside the engine rotate at 12,500 rpm, with their tips reaching 1,200 mph—twice the speed of sound.
  • At take-off each of the engine’s 68 high-pressure turbine blades generates around 900 horsepower per blade—similar to a Formula One racing car.
  • At full power, air leaves the nozzle at the back of the engine traveling at almost 1,000 mph

The plane took the passengers from Manila to Pangasinan, back to Lubang island before touching down at the Naia at 12:30 p.m.

The touchdown was noticeable with a loud thump but immediately cushioned by the two pairs of six landing gears on each side, compared to the two pairs of four landing gears on the A350-900.

“The Rolls-Royce engines are so large you could fit the fuselage of the Supersonic Concorde inside it,” said Akila Hamadas, communications manager for Asia Pacific.

She said in the next 20 years, almost 35,000 aircraft would be sold all over the world and 45 percent of them would be going to the Asia-Pacific region.

Aside from its roominess, the new plane’s wings are designed to be flexible, adjusting to the atmospheric condition, contributing to less bounciness in any kind of weather.

The manufacturer called this “biomimicry,” imitating a bird’s wings, not a straightaway, rigid piece of metal sticking out of the fuselage, but gracefully sweeping back wings that end on upturned wingtips, “which is like a bird, that gives maximum lift and minimum drag.”

The cabin configuration seats nine abreast in business class, premium economy and economy”

Aside from PAL, which has a fleet of 70 from Airbus alone, leading budget carrier Cebu Pacific “has placed a firm order for 80 aircraft, including a recent order of seven A321ceo,” Airbus said.

Cebu Pacific is currently operating 39 A320 family aircraft and eight A330 for long-haul flights to the Middle East.

AirAsia Philippines currently operates 17 A320s.

Image Credits: Alysa Salen

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Recto L. Mercene, graduate BS Journalism, Lyceum of the Philippines. First prize winner, News Photojournalism, by Confederation of Asean Journalists, Bangkok, Thailand; second prize winner, Art and Photojournalism Award; San Miguel Corporation. Former Air Traffic Controller and private pilot. Colombo scholarship grantee: Hurn College of Air Traffic Control, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.

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