Chaos erupted on New Year’s Day in the Philippines after a severe power outage temporarily impacted air traffic control at the country’s largest airport, disrupting hundreds of flights and leaving tens of thousands of travelers stranded in the Southeast Asian hub.
Despite a power restoration, some travelers are still struggling to get re-booked and continue on to their final destinations.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) is the main gateway for travelers to the Philippines, serving the capital Manila and surrounding region.
Technical issues were first detected on Sunday morning, the airport operator, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said in a statement.
A total of 282 flights were either delayed, canceled or diverted to other regional airports while around 56,000 passengers were affected as of 4 p.m. local time on New Year’s Day.
In a press conference held on the evening of Sunday, January 1, Philippine Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista apologized for the inconvenience caused to passengers and said that the airport’s central air traffic control system had suffered from a severe power outage. Although there was a back-up power supply, it had failed to supply enough power, he added.
“This was an air traffic management system issue,” Bautista said. “If you will compare (our airport) with Singapore’s, for one, there is a big difference — they are at least 10 years ahead of us,” he said.
Bautista added that his transportation department had also coordinated with the affected airlines to provide food, refreshments, transportation and accommodation “free of charge to all affected passengers.”
Among the flights affected by the airspace outage was a Manila-bound Qantas plane that departed from Sydney shortly before 1 p.m. local time on January 1. Three hours into its eight-hour journey, Flight QF19 was then forced to turn around mid-air and return to Australia.