NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Close to 4,000 passengers were affected by the delay in flight operations Monday morning after the airport’s computerized check-in system bogged down, forcing airline employees to perform manual check-in procedures.
Airline companies using the airport’s common user terminal (Cute) computerized check-in system run by the Society Internationale D’ Telecommunication (SITA) lost connectivity to the SITA server beginning at 9 p.m. last Sunday.
With the system down, check-in agents had to manually check in each passenger and individually tag each check-in baggage which delayed each flight by a minimum of two hours.
Eleven flights were affected as a result of the system failure. The affected flights included Korean Air flight KE624, Emirates Air flight EK355, Etihad Air flight EY421, Qatar Airways flight QR015, Cathay Pacific flights CX 904, CX906, and CX900, Singapore Airlines flight SQ915, Royal Dutch Airways flight KL804, EVA Air flight BR272, and Asiana Airlines flight OZ702.
Airport assistant general manager for operations Octavio Lina confirmed that the bog down was due to a faulty cabling system connecting the airport and the SITA office in Makati.
Lina said airport workers and PLDT technicians worked round the clock to trace the problem, which was later pinned down to the fiber optics cabling from Tambo in Paranaque to the SITA office in Makati.
After the problem area was identified, PLDT technicians hurriedly replaced the fiber optics cable until mid-day Monday with the system finally coming back online at 12 noon.
Several passengers were displeased with the slow check-in process, with a number complaining that they would miss their connecting flights.
A passenger bound for New York City who identified himself as Mr. Ramos was irked that he would miss his connecting flight bound for New York, as his flight got delayed for three hours.
“I just hope they (airline company) get me on another flight back home,” he said.
A ranking official of the Airline Operator’s Council (AOC) who requested anonymity blamed the airport management for not informing them about the problem.
“They (airport management) should have informed us about the problem earlier. We just found out about it when we were not able to connect to the server this morning,” the airline official said.
The AOC official said the airport management should have already replaced the ageing check-in system with that of the new “ARINC” system, which is used by most airports worldwide.
“Now, they (airport management) know a lot of concessionaires have not signed up to have them ISO-certified,” the airline official said.
“All airline companies affected by this glitch are bound to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because of missed flight connections, rebooking of passengers with other air carriers, billeting them in hotels and lost revenues when the passenger decides to take a different flight. This wouldn’t have happened if we were operating with the ARINC system,” the airline official added.
The NAIA operations chief said that the eventual change to the ARINC system is already in the works, and they expect to have it up and running by the first week of July this year.
When asked about their plans on how to prevent a similar occurrence from happening, Lina said they will work with SITA and PLDT on how to set up a back-up fiber optics line from the airport terminal to the SITA server in Makati.