- More than 280 flights were delayed and diverted on New Year’s Day
- The transportation chief blames the power outage for the failure
- The system has been partially restored, and airlines offer free rebooking
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine authorities suspended flights to and from Manila on New Year’s Day due to a glitch in air traffic control, which also prevented airlines heading to other destinations from using the country’s airspace.
The airport operator said Sunday that a total of 282 flights were either delayed, canceled or diverted to other regional airports, affecting about 56,000 passengers at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
It was not clear how many overflights were affected.
Transportation Minister Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience caused to passengers as he blamed the outage on the failure of the central air traffic control system that also affected operations at other airports in the country.
He said the old, outdated facility should be upgraded immediately and a back-up system was also needed.
“This is an issue related to the air traffic management system,” he told a news briefing. “If you compare us to Singapore, there is a huge difference, they are at least 10 years ahead of us.”
As of 0800 GMT, “order has been partially restored thus allowing limited flight operations,” the Manila International Airport Authority said in a statement. By late evening, eight arrivals and eight departures had been cleared, according to the airport operator.
Videos and photos posted on social media showed long lines at the airport and airline staff distributing packages of food and drinks to stranded passengers.
One passenger — Manuel Pangilinan, president of Philippine telecommunications conglomerate PLDT Inc — tweeted: “We were told about NAIA’s radar and navigation facilities. .
“6 hours of futile but irritating flying for travelers and the losses to tourism and business are appalling. Just in PH. Sigh.”
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB.PS) and Philippine Airlines (PAL.PS) They said they were offering passengers scheduled to fly on Sunday a free rebooking or the option to convert tickets into vouchers.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz) Editing by Neil Vollick, Peter Graff and Allison Williams
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