Philippines travel chaos continues, Manila to Dubai flights canceled

Philippines travel chaos continues, Manila to Dubai flights canceled

An air traffic control system glitch caused travel chaos across the Philippines on Sunday, with some 60,000 passengers affected by flight delays, cancellations and diversions in and out of Manila.

A technical glitch in systems at the capital’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport led Philippine authorities to close the country’s airspace for passenger safety reasons.

As of Monday, limited flight operations have been allowed as the system is partially restored, according to the Manila International Airport Authority.

Thousands stranded in Philippines after flights canceled

As of 7 a.m. Philippine time on Monday, Cebu Pacific flights between Manila and Dubai, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as well as more than 20 domestic flights, have been canceled due to system glitches, according to the Philippine Department of Transportation.

On Sunday, the Emirates flight between Manila and Dubai landed later than originally planned, while the Dubai to Manila flight landed on time this morning and the return flight in the afternoon also arrived in the UAE on time.

According to Etihad Airways’ schedule, Etihad Airways’ morning flights between Abu Dhabi and Manila were able to land on time on both days.

Video posted on social media overnight showed chaotic scenes at check-in counters across the country as thousands of people waited for updates and tried to rebook their flights. Long queues formed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, with airport staff distributing food and drinks to affected passengers.

The country’s Transport Minister Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience and said the air traffic control system should be upgraded immediately and backup systems should be installed.

“This is a problem with the air traffic management system,” he told a media briefing. “If you compare us with Singapore, you will see a big difference, they are at least 10 years ahead of us.”

Bautista said the problems began Sunday morning when the air traffic control center, which oversees all flights in Philippine airspace, lost communications, radios, radars and internet due to a power outage.

On Sunday afternoon, flight tracking service FlightRadar24 tweeted an airspace map showing the impact of the flight suspensions.

Some travelers were outraged, including tycoon Manuel V Pangilinan, chairman of telecommunications company PLDT, who said he was en route from Tokyo to Manila when the blackout occurred.

“We were told that NAIA’s radar and navigation facilities were disabled. I was on my way home from Tokyo – a three-hour flight, but had to return to Haneda. Six hours of useless flight, causing inconvenience to passengers, Terrible damage to tourism and business,” he wrote on Twitter.

Earlier in the day, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said it was suspending flights to Philippine airspace to ensure the safety of passengers.

“The safety of passengers is the agency’s top priority and it is best to ensure the safety of aircraft on the ground to avoid any mid-air accidents,” the agency said in an advisory sent to the media, according to local reports.

As limited operations resume, officials said they are asking airlines to increase flights and upgrade to more wide-body aircraft to accommodate more passengers, with full resumption expected in 72 hours.

Updated: January 3, 2023 11:02 am

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