MANILA (AFP) – On Sunday, hundreds of flights were cancelled, delayed, or diverted due to a “loss of contact” at the nation’s main hub in Manila, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
A “technical problem” impacting the air traffic control centre at Manila’s domestic and international airport was discovered by aviation officials in the morning.
After the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break, a large number of people started coming back to the capital for work and education.
At check-in desks around the nation, there were hectic scenes as hundreds of travellers attempted to rebook tickets or learn when their flight could depart.
Others who had boarded before the issue was disclosed waited for hours before being forced to deplane.
Airport authorities did not provide an explanation for the issue, however low-cost airline Cebu Pacific advised that a “power outage and lack of communication” was to blame.
By 4:00 pm (0800 GMT), according to airport officials, the air traffic management system had been mostly restored, and planes were starting to depart from and arrive in Manila.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, “the flight delays and diversions are just preventative measures to safeguard the safety of passengers, crew, and aircraft.”
Around 56,000 people were impacted by the cancellation, diversion, or delay of more than 280 flights into and out of Manila.
Travelers who were stranded voiced their displeasure and irritation at the malfunction and the lack of information provided by airport officials.
A lady who was scheduled to go to Singapore reported spending many hours onboard the aircraft while it stood idle on the runway.
Finally, she and the other passengers were allowed to disembark, and they were given hotel rooms.
She told AFP, “We were informed there was a total breakdown of radio communications at air traffic control.”
When the jet was diverted to Haneda owing to “radar and navigation facilities” failing, tycoon Manny Pangilinan tweeted that he was his route from Tokyo to Manila.
“Flying for six hours is pointless, but the annoyance to passengers and the harm done to the economy are terrible. only in the PH. Sigh,” Pangilinan wrote.
After a “frustrating” encounter, Daryll Delgado, a passenger from Manila, told AFP that she had been able to rebook her journey at a later time.
Travelers were told “not to go to the airport,” according to an AFP correspondent in the southern city of Davao, but many didn’t learn their flight had been cancelled until they arrived to check in.