A torn-off engine pod from the Xiamen Air plane is seen besides the runway after the accident Image Credit: AFP

Manila: Philippines transportation secretary Arthur Tugade issued a public apology to thousands of passengers affected by a runway incident on Thursday evening that delayed scheduled flights.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Tugade described the incident involving a Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 aircraft as “an eye opener,” as the accident shut down a runway at the Manila airport for 36 hours.

“It is a reminder for us to take a second look at the processes, procedures, and protocols of concerned agencies, as well as airlines, so that we may all improve in the future,” Tugade said, while apologising for the inconvenience caused by the apparent accident.

Runway re-opens after 36-hour shutdown

The runway resumed operations at noon on Saturday.

On Thursday evening, Xiamen Air flight MF8667 had just touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 11:55pm when it suddenly veered off the runway during a heavy downpour.

All 157 passengers and flight crew were safe, but the incident caused delays in the passenger inbound and outbound queue, as international runway 06/24 was rendered temporarily out of service.

A Xiamen Air plane veered off a rain-soaked runway when attempting to land in the Philippine capital just before midnight, causing flight disruptions and a temporary runway closure.  Reuters

One of the engines of the twin turbofan Boeing 737-800 was torn off from the impact as the aircraft skidded off the runway during the heavy downpour landing.

Major crowding

Thousands of passengers who were scheduled to board international and regional fights were unable to do so, causing a major crowding in the lobby of the three main airports in Manila, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 1,2, 3 and 4.

Tugade said as much as the airport authorities, it was also a test for the carriers.

“It is a regrettable experience, which is not of our own liking, nor of our own making. I am sorry. We did our very best to address the situation,” Tugade said.

Passengers of Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 at the Manila international airport following the incident which shut down a runway at the Manila airport for 36 hours.  Xinhua

Dozens of international and local flights were affected, although the airport was not totally shut down as some flights were ordered to use alternative runway 13/31.

This runway, however, can only be used by narrow-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A320s/A321s.

Flights using wide-bodied aircraft such as B777s, A330s, A350s and A340s were most affected.

Scheduled landings were diverted to Clark in Central Luzon, Cebu in Central Philippines, Utapao in Thailand, and Saigon in Vietnam, among others.

One of the 157 passengers on board took a video of the moment the aircraft slid off the runway and ripped off its left engine as it lands in torrential rain in Manila.

The incident led Senator Grace Poe to take note of Manila airport’s shortcomings.

“One plane went off the runway and our entire international airport operations is paralysed. What is our contingency plan for occurrences such as this? Do we have the necessary equipment to tow airplanes?

"We are not only losing economic opportunities because of this stoppage in operations, but more so our face in the international community,” she said.