Naia outage causes chaos
It was due to one broken generator, said an airport manager, but a senatorial candidate called the incident a “national shame.”
A five-hour power outage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 over the weekend canceled 82 domestic flights and delayed 79 international and local flights as of 3 p.m. on Sunday, affecting more than 15,000 passengers.
Affected passengers and netizens said the incident once again highlighted the incompetence of the airport management and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
Others wondered why Naia 3 didn’t have an uninterruptible power supply.
Some even doubted the airport’s capacity to withstand terrorist attacks following the Brussels bombings. Netizen @raymtweets said “a power outage can cripple Naia … what if it were something worse? Unbelievable.”
“It took a terrorist attack to shut down Brussels airport. In Manila’s Naia Terminal 3, it took a … Uhhhh … A random power outage,” said Chiki (@chikinonymous).
The blackout hit Terminal 3, which services mostly domestic flights, late on Saturday and power was not restored until early on Sunday.
Exhausted, long queues
Exhausted passengers sprawled on the floor as check-in counters and luggage carousels shut down. Long queues formed outside the terminal as entrances were closed until power was restored.
Terminal 3 handles an average of 350 domestic and international flights daily, according to data from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). It is one of four terminals in a complex that was once dubbed by the travel website Guide to Sleeping in Airports as the world’s worst due to leaking toilets and creaking facilities.
Naia 3 manager Octavio Lina said the terminal’s electrical system suffered problems when power supplied by a Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) substation serving the area in Pasay City tripped at around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Lina said that even when power was restored less than a minute after, for most of the areas serviced by the Meralco substation, electricity still had failed to kick in at the Naia.
What prolonged the power outage, he pointed out, was the failure of one generator set to work. “We have 10 generators at the terminal and one of them, which was supposed to provide electricity to the main building, did not work,” he told the Inquirer.
The Naia 3 manager said the gates of the main building were immediately closed and no one was allowed entry because of the power outage. “We had to close the gates and prohibit entry because none of the X-ray security screening machines had power,” Lina said, explaining that the move was meant to fully secure the facility.
The closure resulted in heavy passenger congestion at the terminal.
Cebu Pacific Air said it canceled 78 domestic flights due to the power outage, affecting nearly 14,000 passengers. These flights were scheduled between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
Power at the terminal was fully restored around 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Luis Arevalo and Jc Aala tagged Naia’s official Twitter account to complain about lost belongings, adding that the airport management is an embarrassment for Filipinos.
Others were forced to buy new plane tickets after their flights were canceled, like what happened to Louise Pasadilla’s father.
Ian Sta. Maria’s father wasn’t able to fly home from Cagayan de Oro City after suffering the same delay.
Netizens Ram Lopez-Vito Bucoy and George M. Macua said they were made to pay P1,620 for travel tax and an additional P500 for airport fee (for international flights) only to be given such a poor service.
@HotCoco described the incident as “nakakagalit,” especially after paying the fees.
Raymond Reteracion asked asked why there was an absence of back-up supply when there are fees and budget to support services.
Abaya was not spared criticism. Arvin Zurc finds the outage “ridiculous,” adding that the situation only “shows the incompetence of the airport management and the DOTC Sec.”
Cesar Chavez (@sarchavez) tweets that Abaya is “the worst and most incompetent DOTC secretary.”
A parody account of broadcaster Luchi Cruz-Valdez flooded the timeline with tirades for Abaya, demanding in all caps that the secretary do his job.
“Apparently, Naia has around 10 Power Generators. Drained nga lang, according to Jun Abaya. Edi *applause emojis*,” the account added.
Before the incident, passengers had been complaining about poor maintenance of the terminal, citing collapsed floors, dilapidated facilities and leaks.
Two lawmakers from Metro Manila called for heads to roll after the power outage. One of them even branded the incident at the country’s main airport a national shame.
Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said Abaya and Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado should be sacked for “sleeping on their jobs.”
“This is no longer a laughing matter,” said Gatchalian, a member of Sen. Grace Poe’s senatorial ticket and of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Another senatorial candidate on Poe’s team, Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo, said the incident was a national shame, expressing disbelief at what happened at Naia 3.
“I am appalled by the fact that Naia 3 had no contingency or back-up plan for such an event,” he said in a separate statement.
“It has shown the highest level of incompetence and lack of foresight on the part of the DOTC, which had all but declared it would take a direct hand in running our airports. It’s shameful to say the least,” said Romulo, a member of the Liberal Party.
Romulo said the incident firmed up his resolve to push for the enactment of an airline passenger bill of rights to impose penalties not only on airlines but also on responsible government agencies.
The DOTC noted that there was a maintenance operation at the airport terminal when a trip occurred at the Meralco main line.
Lina assured the public that the Naia 3 management was looking into why power supplied to the airport by Meralco failed to kick in and why its generator set connected to the passenger side, considered a critical part of the terminal, failed to work.
“Our power lines and electrical facilities are being checked. I am meeting with Meralco and our technical personnel tomorrow (Monday) to determine what needs to be done to prevent this from happening again,” he told the Inquirer.
Meralco said a transmission line tripped briefly but was restored in minutes, suggesting that the problem could be with the airport’s systems.
The four Naia terminals were designed for 17 million passengers annually, but overuse has made the airport notorious for flight delays.
Plans to build a new airport outside Manila have not materialized under President Aquino. An excruciatingly slow infrastructure overhaul has led to chronic commuter train breakdowns and traffic jams.
The Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) issued an apology to the public. The Miaa said “[m]easures are now being worked out to make sure that a power outage does not occur again in the future.”
In a statement, Cebu Pacific said, “We sincerely hope for our guests’ understanding, as this situation is beyond our control.”
The budget airline gave affected passengers the option of a full refund or a rebooking within a month of the departure date.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said some of its flights were canceled or delayed but could not immediately say how many. It said it was waiving rebooking fees and offering refunds to passengers affected by the power outage.
The passengers have the option to refund or rebook flights without charges within 30 days from their originally scheduled flight date, according to PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna. With reports from DJ Yap and AFP