The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has suspended flights in and out of Tacloban Airport – the main gateway to the island of Leyte – due to “pavement erosion”.
Smaller turbo-prop airplanes have been told they can resume landing and taking off within a week. Larger air-carriers have been told that the repairs to accommodate commercial aircraft could take months.
Officials are worried those repairs will not be done in time for Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit typhoon ravished Tacloban in January, 2015.
A statement was issued on Monday saying that a notice to airmen indicated that the closure of Daniel Romualdez Airport would start on September 3 and end at 6am the following morning “for turbo propeller aircraft only.”
“Jets like Airbus A320 or Boeing B737 will resume flights only after the total replacement of the five-inch asphalt on the whole runway is done,” the CAAP noted.
The CAAP chief financial officer, Rodante Joya, said in an interview that discussions were being undertaken with a contractor on the asphalt replacement.
Taking into account the rains, the process could run for several months, Joya said.
Joya also said that the 2,100-meter runway of the Tacloban airport was serving 24 flights per day.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia Philippines and Tiger Air operate at the airport and have requested that they stop operating at the gateway until repairs are carried out.
Airline officials were not immediately available for comment. “The continuing deterioration of the runway surface must be addressed immediately for the safety of all aircraft landing in Tacloban,” Joya said.
The rehabilitation is still ongoing at the airport’s terminal and runway, which were severely damaged by Super Typhoon “Yolanda.” The typhoon barrelled through the country last November, killing thousands and damaging key facilities throughout this region and many other parts of the Philippines.