GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 June) — More flights to and from the Davao International Airport were diverted to the General Santos International Airport here on Tuesday as the runway in Davao has remained closed following an accident involving a Cebu Pacific aircraft on Sunday night.
Dante Fernandez, administrative officer of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) here, said Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines re-routed anew their scheduled flights for Tuesday at the Davao airport pending the clearing of its runway.
Cebu Pacific failed to meet the deadline to remove the aircraft by 8 p.m. Monday. It asked for an extension until 7 a.m. Tuesday but the aircraft remained stuck. CAAP again gave Cebu Pacific until 3 p.m. and said it would take over the job of removing the aircraft if it fails to do so.
As of 5:30 p.m. already under the supervision of CAAP, the aircraft had moved by about 50 meters.
Capt. John Andrews, CAAP Deputy Director General told ABS CBN News Channel at 5:30 p.m. that they hope to clear the runway by 6 p.m.
The 6 p.m. deadline, however, may not be met because the tarmac of the old airport, where the aircraft would be towed, is still about 300 meters away.
“There’s no word yet as to when the runway will be finally cleared and reopened. Until now, its status remains inoperational,” Fernandez said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo.
The two airlines initially advised CAAP that a combined 24 flights bound for Manila, Cebu and Iloilo and vice versa will be re-routed here Tuesday.
Fernandez, who is presently the acting airport manager here, said the additional flights were on top of the scheduled six regular flights at the airport here, which is classified by CAAP as an alternate international airport.
He said the first Cebu Pacific flight arrived at around 7:45 a.m. and immediately left 15 minutes later carrying a mix of regular and re-routed passengers.
At around 7 a.m., several vans carrying Cebu Pacific passengers from Davao City, which is a three hour land trip to this city, arrived at the airport complex in Barangay Tambler here.
The passengers said Cebu Pacific personnel arranged for the van and gave them P500 each for the fare and other expenses.
Five more Yellow Bus Line buses loaded with passengers of the same airline arrived here at past 8 a.m. to catch the morning flights.
Fernandez said he could not make an estimate as to how many airline passengers would be re-routed to this city for Tuesday but said they might likely surpass Monday’s record of at least 4,000.
“As what happened on Monday, all these passengers will be accommodated by the airlines,” the official assured.
On Monday, Cebu Pacific and PAL diverted to this city a total of 18 flights that were originally scheduled to land and depart from the Davao airport.
Fernandez said the last flight from Manila arrived at around 12:00 midnight and left the airport here at 12:30 a.m.
Meantime, he said the City Integrated Health Services Office and the Philippine Red Cross sent ambulances and some of their personnel to assist passengers who might need emergency medical help.
He admitted that some passengers have been facing difficulty in coping with the erratic weather condition and in enduring the long queue to the baggage inspection area.
Passengers have to wait for some time outside the airport building as its pre-departure area could accommodate only around 500 persons, he said.
Fernandez said baggage inspection at the airport is currently being done manually as their x-ray machines broke down about two months ago and they’re still waiting for the replacements.
The bidding and acquisition of the new x-ray machines are currently being handled by the Department of Transportation and Communication’s Office of Transport Security. (Allen V. Estabillo in General Santos City and Keith Bacongco in Davao City/MindaNews)