More flights at Clark Airport to ease holiday congestion

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Clark International Airport (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Starting December 16, local airlines will be operating more flights out of Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific will increase its Clark-Cebu-Clark flights from three to six times weekly and its Clark-Hong Kong-Clark trips will be up from seven to 10 times weekly.

At the same time, flag carrier Philippine Airlines will soon launch flights from Clark to Busuanga, Laguindingan and Davao.

The move is part of the government's effort to encourage airline companies to operate more flights out of Clark, especially this Christmas season, to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"For international, it's always anticipated that flights coming in starting December 15 are already full until sometime before Christmas," said Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal at a Friday press briefing. "That will again increase after December 25."

Authorities said an additional 7,200 passengers will go through NAIA Terminal 3 starting December 15. Around 36,000 travelers normally go in and out of Terminal 3.

Despite the influx of passengers, airport officials are assuring the public that the holiday mayhem that happened in 2014 will not be repeated.

"We had some delays in Manila," said Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Deputy Director General Capt. Manuel Tamayo. "We have talked to airlines that if it happens again in December, fines will be imposed."

Villamor Air Base for traffic

But it's not just congestion at the airport that annoy travelers. It's also the horrendous traffic getting to the terminal, which has led to missed flights.

To cut down travel time, Monreal is proposing the opening of  Villamor Air Base to motorists.  He said this would spare them the traffic on Sales Road, but it's unlikely to happen.

"The feedback to me is that there's an issue about security because people outside will have public access in the camp, so it's something we really have to look at," Monreal said. "We don't want to compromise safety and security."

Officials meanwhile said new portions of the NAIA Expressway will open before Christmas, providing direct access to Terminal 3, the Skyway and the South Luzon Expressway.

The first segment of the toll road opened in September, linking Terminals 1 and 2 in Parañaque City to Macapagal Boulevard and the Entertainment City in Pasay.