Gov’t tells Xiamen Air: Pay damages
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said on Monday that airport officials would ask Xiamen Air to pay damages for the losses that stemmed from an accident involving a Boeing plane of the airline that veered off the runway on Thursday, MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal said on Monday.
The incident at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) caused hundreds of flight delays and cancellations since Friday, stranding thousands of passengers.
Xiamen Air and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade have apologized for the inconvenience to the passengers affected by flight cancellations and delays.
Cancellations, delays continue
A much-desired return to normal operations remained elusive at Naia on Monday, as flight cancellations and delays continued even though the Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 was cleared from a muddy field early on Saturday.
At least 10 domestic and international flights were canceled on Monday, including flights of Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Air Asia that serviced an array of destinations, including Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Legazpi, Butuan and Caticlan.
Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo said airport officials should be held administratively, civilly and criminally liable for the mayhem at Naia and other airports.
“I hope heads will roll here. We cannot just be an international embarrassment,” the chair of the House Metro Manila development committee said at a news briefing.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said that accountability for the incident was a shared responsibility.
Malacañang said the government was investigating the possible liability of the pilot of the Xiamen Air plane that veered off the runway.
Asked whether transportation officials should be held accountable for the chaos at Naia, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Transportation Secretary Tugade had apologized publicly for the inconvenience to the passengers.
Monreal said he met on Monday morning with an 11-member delegation from Xiamen Air and asked it to produce a “little token,” like food or water, that could be distributed to passengers who were still stranded at Naia as a “show of sincerity.”
The delegation said it would immediately comply, he said.
Xiamen Air apology
Che Shanglun, chair of Xiamen Air, issued on Monday a public statement at the request of airport officials, blaming the runway’s 36-hour closure on “continued thunderstorms.”
“Xiamen Airlines apologizes to all the passengers affected by the incident and will do its utmost to assist,” he added.
He also said Xiamen Air was cooperating with the CAAP and Civil Aviation Administration of China in the investigation of the incident.
Compensation for tourists
The Department of Tourism (DOT) also apologized to local and foreign tourists inconvenienced by the Xiamen Air accident.
In a statement, the DOT said it would be meeting with airport authorities and airline officials to discuss the compensation for tourists with delayed and canceled flights, as well as those who had delayed and lost baggage.
Donaldo Mendoza, CAAP deputy director general for operations, said an initial investigation showed that the pilot in command of the flight when it skidded off the runway was a 50-year-old Korean with a total flight time of 16,000 hours.
His copilot was a 28-year-old Chinese with 950 hours of total flight time, Mendoza said.
Both tested negative for illegal drugs, but the CAAP was still waiting on Monday afternoon for the results of an alcohol test.
According to Mendoza, the sanctions to be meted out would still depend on the final report on the incident.
Monreal said delays caused by the removal of the Xiamen aircraft were compounded by 61 recovery flights that were brought in between Aug. 18 and 19 by various airlines without coordinating with the MIAA.
Four of those 61 unannounced flights had been mounted by Xiamen Air, the MIAA general manager previously said.
PAL was forced to cancel long-haul flights on its wide-bodied aircraft to Los Angeles and San Francisco in California, showing how far-reaching the domino effect of the Xiamen Air incident remained on Monday.
Josen Perez de Tagle, PAL’s head of corporate communications, said the Xiamen Air incident had forced the flag carrier to divert most of its international fleet to other airports around the Philippines and Asia, and that it was still in the process of recovering them all.
De Tagle said PAL did not expect its operations to normalize sooner than Wednesday.
The airline was also working to mount a flight to Dammam, Saudi Arabia, for overseas Filipino workers by Wednesday, saying that it understood their fear that additional delays could further jeopardize their employment, he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM DEXTER CABALZA
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