MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Under heavy security, the Zamboanga International Airport reopened Thursday morning, September 19, after being closed for 10 days due to the fighting between government troops and rebels in the city.
Cebu Pacific flight 5J849 from Manila arrived at the airport at 10:06 am, the first ever commercial flight to land there since its closure 10 days ago. It will be followed later by PAL Express flight 2P995, also originating from Manila, at 11:40 am.
In Zamboanga, passengers were advised to arrive at the airport earlier than usual due to tighter security inspections. Departing passengers will only be allowed to get down of their vehicles to proceed to the first check point, which is outside of the terminal building.
Departing passengers are also advised to carry only one piece of handcarried luggage as a security precaution.
This development comes after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said Wednesday, September 18, that the airport is now "safe" for plane landings and take-offs.
At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's terminal 3, the check-in counters for the Zamboanga-bound flights opened much earlier than usual, and passengers were subjected to more stringent security measures.
The CAAP also said passengers arriving from Manila would bussed to a holding point 5 minutes away from the Zamboanga airport.
Relatives and friends could only fetch them at the designated pick-up point, CAAP deputy director general John Andrews stressed.
Only flights between Manila and Zamboanga are operating. Flights to and from other destinations remain suspended.
It has been 10 days the 3rd busiest airport in Mindanao stopped operating, amid firefighting between rebel groups and government forces.
The airport is a key transport hub in the region, with flights connecting the city to Manila, Cebu, Davao, Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, and Cagayan de Oro.
Thousands of passengers have been affected by the temporary airport closure.
By Friday, September 20, Cebu Pacific and PAL Express will be allowed to mount two flights each, if the situation in the city improves.
Andrews also said that full resumption of flights at the airport is possible only once the city itself return to normal.
In separate statements, the two airlines said passengers originally booked on the Manila-Zamboanga and Zamboanga-Manila flights on September 19 will be prioritized.
Cebu Pacific said their call center representatives will reach the other affected passengers for their choice on the following options: rebooking, getting a full refund or travel fund, rerouting, or proceeding with previously rebooked or cancelled flight.
PAL, on the other hand, said, "any remaining seats will be given to passengers of previously cancelled flights on first-come, first-serve basis." – Rappler.com