Airlines suffer $2-B losses from APEC

Rudy Santos - Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines - Local and foreign airlines, including private aircraft and chartered planes, lost an estimated $2 billion in revenues following the cancelation of over 1,000 flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit from Nov. 16 to 20.

An airline industry expert said the most affected were the budget airlines.

The expert said that most of the airlines are covered by insurance but the low-cost carriers are the hardest hit by the cancellations as they could not rebook their passengers immediately nor book them in hotels.

Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airliner lost an estimated $18.7 million. PAL’s gross revenue per day is $7.5 million.

PAL operates some 260 domestic and international flights daily and the close to 700 cancelled flights are equivalent to two and a half days of operation, Villaluna added.

“We must stress, however, that the long term benefits of APEC outweigh these aforementioned losses,” Villaluna added.

Cebu Pacific (CEB), through its corporate communications unit, said the airline lost an estimated P400 million in revenues due to flight cancellations during the APEC summit.

“CEB is expecting more changes in flight schedules within the week, as this figure may still change,” the firm said.

Local airline companies cancelled some 1,800 domestic and international flights from Nov. 16 to 20 following the temporary runway closures to give way to the arrival and departure of leaders of APEC member-economies.

Air Asia Philippines said it cancelled 74 domestic and 10 international flights from Nov. 17 to 20 due to temporary closure of the NAIA runway.

Other international airlines also cancelled various flights or re-scheduled their departure and arrivals.

Airport observers said that the cancellation of flights from Manila to other places in the country had affected tourist arrivals in the provinces.

Observers also said that establishments in the vicinity of the NAIA terminals and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and the routes where convoys of APEC delegates would pass were turned into no-drive zones as private motorists and ordinary citizens were barred, leaving many stranded in heavy traffic caused by the road closure and re-routing.

With commercial flights restricted at the NAIA, Cebu Pacific and Qatar Airways diverted yesterday some flights to Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) said Cebu Pacific AirBus A-320 from Dubai with flight number 5J-7945 landed in Clark while Qatar Airways Boieng-777 aircraft arrived at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Cebu Pacific flights from Singapore wre also diverted to Clark.

Clark airport operations manager Ding Aranas said that despite these developments, regular flights of other airlines at Clark airport would go on uninterrupted.

These include regular domestic and international flights of Qatar Airways, Asiana Airlines, Dragonair, Jin Air, CebGo, Cebu Pacific, Tiger Air Singapore and Air Asia Berhad.

Aranas said Cebu Pacific had also diverted domestic flights from NAIA to Clark that were bound for Davao, Dumaguete, Kalibo, Tagbilaran and Puerto Princesa.

CIAC president and CEO Emigdio Tanjuatco III said Clark airport is prepared to accommodate aircraft at the terminal’s two runways.

Meanwhile, the Media Affairs Office of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said that passengers with flights to catch this week at NAIA can ride on airport shuttle buses that were deployed to ferry them to their respective terminals by passing through the airside route or service road around the tarmac.

Passengers are advised to go to designated areas at NAIA and take the shuttle bus from there to be ferried to any of the four terminals.

The waiting areas are: arrival curbside at NAIA terminal 1 and terminal 2, and bus gate 115 at terminal 3 for transfer passengers.

Only those with flight bookings will be allowed to board the bus even as help desks are in place to assist passengers. - With Ding Cervantes, Louella Desiderio

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