Nov. 30, 2016

Earlier this fall, the Philippines Department of Transportation ordered the transfer of all general aviation operations, except helicopter flights and emergency medical airlift services, from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, also known as Manila International Airport (MNL), to alternative airports within four months.

Officials cited air traffic congestion at the airport, resulting in frequent and lengthy flight delays, cancellations and diversions, as the cause of the order. The agency also claimed that secondary airports in the area are not utilized or are significantly underutilized. The goal of the order is to reduce congestion at Ninoy while promoting development of other airports.

“Local and regional aviation groups are working to educate the aviation authorities. Operators planning trips to the area should stay tuned and be prepared for a possible alternate, but the alternatives to Manila are not ideal,”said Pat Dunn, the NBAA International Operators Committee’s regional lead for Asia.

Clark International Airport, a former U.S. Air Force base, will be the likely destination for most general aviation traffic, although Clark is farther from metro Manila than MNL, and passengers should be advised of lengthy drive times to the city during heavy traffic conditions, which are the norm. According to Dunn, what used to be an hour or hour and a half drive from Clark to metro Manila is now often three to four hours.

Subic Bay International Airport, a former U.S. Naval Air Station, is another option for general aviation operations, but it is not a particularly desirable one. The airport is often rented for non-aviation purposes with little or no notice. The infrastructure is lacking, as the terminal is small and the ILS is no longer in regular service. Subic Bay is also farther from metro Manila, with a drive time of between three and five hours.

“Efficient access to major metropolitan areas is one reason companies open new facilities or choose to use a particular airport,”said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “The Department of Transportation should consider improving and expanding Manila’s airport infrastructure to recognize the growing importance of the city to foreign investment.”