Xiamen Air 'cannot be charged for impact on flight operations'

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine airport officials said Xiamen Air will now have to pay the government P33 million, but it cannot be charged for the impact of its plane accident on flight operations.

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, August 29, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said the airline now has to pay more than double the initial P15-million estimate.

"Magiging P33 million na po ngayon (They have to pay P33 million now)," Monreal told Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee.

Asked when they have to pay, Monreal said Xiamen Air has to settle the charge by "next week." (READ: TIMELINE: Xiamen Air plane mishap at NAIA runway)

In an interview after the hearing, Monreal gave some details of what the P33 million would cover, and what it would not.

"I don't have the exact figures right now, but the P33 million includes rental of equipment from us and from the third-party contractor [for cranes], and the costs of manpower for the extraction of the plane," he told Rappler.

"We cannot charge them [for] the impact on flight operations, because that's consequential," he added.

On August 16, Xiamen Air Flight MF8667 skidded off runway 06/24 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The pilot blamed the "sudden" heavy downpour as they were landing.

The runway was temporarily closed and the operation to remove the plane took 36 hours, paralyzing flights at NAIA.

Higher charge?

Since the investigation into the accident has yet to be completed, Poe asked during the hearing if the charges could be higher, should it be proven that Xiamen Air's pilots were responsible for the runway mishap.

"Since [the equipment] are still being investigated in Singapore, and if we eventually find out that this is not force majeure, is it possible for Xiamen to pay higher charges because of pilot error?" Poe asked in a mix of English and Filipino.

In response, Monreal said the Philippine government "may charge higher" than P33 million. (READ: What to do when your flight gets canceled)

During the hearing, Philippine Airlines said the entire runway fiasco cost them P50 million, with over 56,000 passengers inconvenienced due to canceled and diverted flights.

According to MIAA, a total of 631 flights were canceled from August 17 to 20, leading to thousands of stranded passengers. (LOOK: Thousands stranded due to NAIA runway closure– Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.