February 4, 2023

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Philippines: Chaos at airports due to technical problems

Thousands of travelers were stranded at airports across the Philippines on Sunday, with hundreds of flights canceled, delayed or diverted due to a “loss of communication” in the main destination, Manila.

More than 280 flights scheduled to arrive and depart from Manila were affected, affecting 56,000 passengers, airport officials said.

The air traffic management system was partially restored by 4:00 pm (0800 GMT) and flights resumed taking off and landing in Manila, they added.

“Flight delays and diversions are simple precautionary measures to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and aircraft,” the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

A “technical problem” was detected in the morning at the Domestic and International Traffic Management Center at Manila Airport.

The problem arose as many travelers returned to the capital after the Christmas and New Year holidays. There were chaotic scenes at boarding counters as thousands tried to find out when their flights would depart or book a new seat.

Others who had boarded had to wait several hours to disembark before the malfunction was announced.

Airport officials did not provide details on the origin of the problem, but low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific explained in a notification to its customers that it was linked to “power outages and loss of communications.”

Many passengers protested the outage and lack of information on the site.

A woman about to leave for Singapore said she was offered a hotel room after sitting on the tarmac for hours before boarding the plane.

“We were told that radio communications with air traffic control were completely down,” he told AFP.

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Philippine President Manny Pangilinan tweeted that his flight from Tokyo to Manila had been diverted to Tokyo-Haneda Airport due to a “radar and navigation failure”.

“The inconvenience to passengers on a six-hour flight and the loss to tourism and business is appalling,” he tweeted.

In Manila, one passenger, Darryl Delgado, told AFP he was able to make a new reservation after an “overwhelming” experience.

According to an AFP journalist in Davao (South), passengers were advised “not to go to the airport,” but many discovered their flight had been canceled when they had already checked in.