Typhoon ‘Ruby’ disrupts air and rail services
MANILA, Philippines—The operations of airlines and railways operating in Metro Manila were disrupted by Tropical Storm “Ruby.”
The country’s major carriers Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines and sister companies AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia Zest said hundreds of domestic and international flights were canceled.
In Metro Manila, the managers of the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit Line 3 said operations were to end earlier than usual as strong winds and rains were expected to hit the metropolis late Monday.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR) also said its trains stopped operating early. It also canceled all trips on Monday to Calamba, Laguna.
Both Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. units Smart and Sun, as well as Globe Telecom, said they had started to restore cellular services in areas hardest hit by Ruby, like Eastern Samar.
As of press time on Monday, Cebu Pacific, the country’s dominant domestic carrier, said 240 flights were canceled from Dec. 5 to 8 while Philippine Airlines said about 200 flights were canceled from Dec. 6 to 9.
Sister companies AirAsia Philippines and Air Asia Zest, both units of Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad, canceled more than 100 flights from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9. The airline has started to move its aircraft out of Metro Manila to safer destinations, including gateways in Clark, Cebu and Davao, its chair Marianne Hontiveros said.
The airlines were waiting for further announcements on Ruby, which could trigger more flight cancellations.
Carmelo Arcilla, executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board, said canceled flights could lead to more congestion once the travel season peaks later this month.
“It could cause (congestion), but safety is still the prime objective,” he said.
41 airports open
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said on Monday all 41 of its airports were open for operations “but landings and take-offs are still subject to prevailing aerodrome weather conditions.”
Metro Manila’s elevated railways ordered earlier closing times on Monday.
“This is for the safety of passengers,” MRT-3 general manager Renato San Jose said, adding that strong winds and floods could compromise power sources crucial to running the trains.
He said they hoped to operate MRT-3 on Dec. 9, if power was available, flooding was minimal and winds were below 90 kilometers per hour.
Separately, LRT 1 and LRT 2 stopped its trips early.
Airlines also reiterated their rebooking and refund policies, which involves free rebooking for travel within 30 days from original departure or full refund of travel fund.
Cebu Pacific said passengers traveling from Dec. 5 to 9 on flights that were not canceled may rebook for travel within 7 days of the original departure without added charges, or avail of a refund.
AirAsia said affected guests may rebook their flights with no additional charges and based on seat availability within 30 days from their original departure and for a limited travel period until Dec. 17, or from Jan. 5 onwards; avail of a 90-day credit shell or get a full refund.
Philippine Airlines said if a passenger is unable to rebook on the same fare class, rebooking on a higher booking class will be allowed, with the fare difference also waived.
Philippine Airlines expects “normal operations” to resume at noon Dec. 9.
PAL said that several aircraft that were ferried to different provincial stations to escape Ruby’s winds will begin to fly back to Manila starting at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
PAL’s international flights, including those leaving Dec. 8 for Los Angeles and San Francisco, will operate according to schedule. The early morning arrivals of the two trans-Pacific flights for Dec. 9 are expected to arrive at 8 a.m.
Flights to Tacloban are expected to resume Dec. 10, Wednesday. Tacloban flights for Dec. 9 remain canceled to allow for the unhampered relief operations to the city.
On Dec. 10, PAL plans to operate several Manila-Tacloban-Manila flights using turboprop aircraft while the airport and the passenger terminal undergoes repair.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, the number of canceled flights to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has risen to 207, according to CAAP.—With a report from Niña P. Calleja