December 5, 2009
Philippine Airlines subsidiary PAL Express resumed flights to Caticlan Airport on December 1 five months after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) suspended flights by major airlines to the Boracay gateway because of runway accidents.
PAL Express which now schedules eight times a day flight to Caticlan from Manila and twice daily from Cebu using Bombardier Q300 turboprop aircraft joins Seair as the only airlines flying to Caticlan. Cebu Pacific and Zest Air are still waiting for its aircraft's airport certification to fly the route because it uses bigger and heavier planes that require longer runway to operate. Cebu Pacific and Zest Air utilizes ATR 72-500 and MA-60 aircraft that seats 60-75 passengers.
“The resumption of flights to Caticlan is a welcome development but there are special requirements that airlines must comply with to observe the highest level of safety,” said CAAP director Ruben Ciron.
In July, PAL Express, Cebu Pacific Air and Zest Airways suspended direct flights to Caticlan and rerouted them to Kalibo due to airport restrictions implemented by CAAP. The restrictions make it difficult for bigger aircraft to use the airport without substantial load penalty.
The air regulator imposed weight limits following several landing mishaps. Pilots find it difficult to land on Caticlan particularly during Habagat (northeast wind) season because of a 45-meter tall hill near runway 24 that blocks flight approach. The Amihan (southwest wind) monsoon aided PAL Express aircraft to land and depart safely at the airport.
Ciron said Caticlan is still undergoing construction of the runway over-run extension and the restriction of the “one runway for landing and take-off” remained in place.
CAAP had already spent some P32 million to provide additional 60 meters of runway strip at both ends, Ciron added.
Caticlan Airport had recorded about 60 flights daily on peak season, including charter airplanes and air taxi services, CAAP said.