Airlines told to cut flights from NaiaBy Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The government ordered local airlines to cut their flights out of Manila by as much as 30 percent.
This was contained in a directive that was aimed at easing congestion at the country’s premiere international airport.
Private jets and “fish run” operators, which take up about 18 percent of the facility’s capacity, will be allowed to remain and maintain their capacities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“The airlines, knowing the flight limitations of the Naia runway and realizing that their scheduled flights exceed the runway safety limits, have voluntarily hired and subjected themselves to a common independent flight scheduler,” Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said.
Roxas said the independent company removed many peak-hour flights and moved these to off-peak times of day.
“The government is here to ensure safety and passenger convenience,” he said. “The new schedules have been submitted and will take effect once cleared.”
However, Alfredo M. Herrera, vice president for marketing of Zest Airways, said the move was the latest in a series of ill-advised measures that were adopted in reaction to an insignificant number of passengers complaining of airline abuses.
“If you want to look for space, you have to start by getting ‘general aviation’ out of Naia,” Herrera said in a briefing with reporters on Monday. He was referring to private jet owners and operators of fish runs, which bring in fresh fish from around the country to Manila every day.
Instead of asking commercial airlines to cut their flights at Naia, the government should fast-track its plans to relocate general aviation hangars to Sangley Point across Manila Bay.
“Private jets are owned by the taipans. And these guys can afford to have their own helicopters that can bring them to Sangley,” Herrera said.
He said that asking airlines to cut their flights was a classic example of the government looking out for the interests of the few at the expense of the many.
He said the government’s directive was discussed at a technical working group (TWG) meeting last week. An inter-agency TWG is currently drafting a new “passenger bill of rights” that seek to address alleged abuses by low-cost carriers.
A formal rule would be issued later this month and would take effect by early July.
The rules were passed due to an alleged increase in the number of complaints made by passengers against airlines, often for delayed flights.
Government data, however, showed that only 0.4 percent of passengers filed complaints in the first quarter of 2012. This was roughly the same level as last year’s.
Herrera said 2012 might be the first year in more than two decades when average airline fares would go up.
“We will incur additional costs due to these new rules and we will have to recover that by charging higher fares,” Herrera said.
Because of the tougher rules, he said Zest Air was forced to cut its growth forecast for 2012.
The firm said that while the expansion of international operations would push through, it would be forced to cut several of its domestic destinations.
Sought for comment, Cebu Pacific officials declined to issue a statement on the said rule.
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