Travel hitches still expected at Naia during Christmas rush
Travelers flying in and out of Manila can expect the usual Christmas rush hitches at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), as facilities expected to bring comfort and faster air travel will be fully operational only by next year.
Airport authorities on Monday told the congressional oversight committee on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) that 500 more personnel would be manning immigration desks to ease bottlenecks at immigration checkpoints at Naia during the holiday season.
But there won’t be additional X-ray machines to screen luggage or extra flights despite the expected surge in the number of travelers this month, Caap officials said at the hearing presided over by Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chair of the House committee on transportation.
“We will not have extra X-ray machines but all the machines in the departure area are open and operational. I don’t think there will be long lines,” said Ed Monreal, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).
Monreal said the majority of the airlines were using bigger aircraft to bring in more passengers. “In the past, we normally had chartered flights but recently, because of the type of aircraft being used, chartered flights are now less if none at all,” he added.
In an interview after the hearing, Poe said the deployment of extra immigration officers could help ease the lines of travelers but would not be enough to improve their overall experience.
Caap has estimated a 10-percent increase in the number of air passengers during the Christmas season. Last year, it recorded more than 18.3 million passenger movements in all the 35 airports it operates.
“Air passengers will still need to make big sacrifices during the holidays this year because the Department of Transportation and Caap are not yet ready with the facilities that will ease and fast-track travel,” Poe said.
Rapid exit taxiway
Monreal assured the oversight committee that the ongoing construction of the rapid exit taxiway would cause no flight disruptions during the holiday rush.
A five-hour closure of the main runway, from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m., will be implemented in February 2018. This would affect more than 90 wide-bodied aircraft, Monreal said, adding that the MIAA had already met with all the airlines to plot their flight schedules for the summer.
40 aircraft movements
Once it is completed in August 2018, the rapid exit taxiway, one of the major projects at Naia, is expected to add two more aircraft movements per hour (landing and takeoff) and benefit an additional 300 to 500 passengers on an hourly basis, Caap Director General Jim Sydiongco said.
But until such time, Naia’s runway will be limited to the usual 40 aircraft movements per hour, he said.
Sydiongco added that travelers could also expect efficient and safer air space once the satellite-based Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system becomes fully operational in the first quarter of next year.
“We can now space flights closer to each other [for landing and takeoff],” he said.
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