April 26, 2012
By Recto Mercene
THE Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap), and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had hired a Sydney-based private entity to handle the time slotting of domestic and international foreign airlines in a bid to address aircraft congestion at the country’s premier airport.
Airline companies have agreed to foot the bill to pay Airport Coordination Australia (ACA), which has been handling airlines schedules since March, to the tune of between P3 million to P5 million a year.
These three government agencies submit all airline schedules and any related parameters via electronic mail to the ACA, which in turn, processes the information. The new schedule is sent back to the Philippines within 24 hours, according to Miaa General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.
Alvin Candelaria, officer in charge of the Airport Operations, said the critical time slotting should be given to a private entity, following suggestions by the International Air Transport Association (Iata), due to excessive delays experienced by commercial aviation.
During a meeting of all aviation stakeholders that includes the Iata, Airline Operators Council (AOC), Miaa, Caap, CAB, Cebu Pacific, among others, it was found out that Philippine Airlines (PAL) used to decide time slotting at the Ninoy Aquino International Airprt (Naia) when it used to be the sole international and domestic carrier.
However, with the entry of Cebu Pacific, Zest Air, Airphil Express and Seair, the slotting was taken out of PAL’s hands to avoid accusations of bias in choosing the ideal time of departures and arrivals at the Naia.
Still, numerous delays especially for departures were experienced by the air carriers, which sometimes had to wait for 45 minutes, wasting aviation fuel before take-off clearance is given.
It is not uncommon that a commercial jet, after waiting for more than an hour at the end of the runway to be given clearance for take-off, had to go back to the Naia terminal to load fuel again, according to the AOC.
At the height of air traffic congestion, the Naia was recorded to have handled 56 aircraft within one hour. The ideal number for “runway occupancy,” which includes all take-off and landing, is 40 aircraft per hour.
Candelaria said that with the entry of ACA, runway occupancy could be reduced to 40 aircrafts per hour. However, some airline operators said this has yet to be realized, noting that excessive delays are still experienced by commercial jetliners and noted that the present system could only handle about 22 to 27 aircrafts per hour.
This is because the Naia has only one international runway, and another domestic runway. The two runways are not parallel but were designed to intersect one another, so that simultaneous operations could not be carried out.
“We are still in transition, many factors have yet to be forwarded to ACA to be stored in their software and data banks before the Naia is able to attain the ideal time slotting,” he said.
Unlike parallel runways, where one is solely assigned for take-offs and the other exclusively for landings, the single runway of the Naia bundles all runway occupancy within a narrow window.
These are what could be the peak departure hours of between 6 and 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 10 p.m. and 12 midnight.
These peak times are chosen by all airline operators because it coincides with their ideal arrival time at their destinations or at the point of departure.
Most domestic carriers wanted to be able to leave the Naia at 2 p.m. because it allows them to return to Manila before sunset because some provincial airports are not equipped for nighttime operations.