Last August 16 at about 11:55pm, a Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737-800 skidded off the runway at NAIA, prompting a closure of runway 06/24 for days, resulting to massive flight delays and cancellations. Fortunately, all 157 passengers and 8 crew members are safe with no injuries. It was also very fortunate that the aircraft did not burst into flames after one of its engines and nose landing gear were ripped off. This would have been a very catastrophic and we are very happy it did not happen that way.
Civil aviation authorities of both Philippines and China are now investigating on the incident. We believe that Boeing officials will also take part in the investigation as the aircraft involve is a Boeing 737. At this point, it is best to just wait for the investigation results. Let's avoid making speculations based on what we see in pictures and heard on social media as there are plenty of angles and factors to look into.
Yet, there are plenty of lessons we can learn from this incident and some realities that we do have to accept.
The situation caused massive delays and flight cancellations. Thousands of passengers were affected, some were not able to leave, and some flights were diverted to other airports as the single main runway of NAIA 06/24 was closed down due to the incident.
Despite the given situation, some passengers grew irate, prompting them to raise their voices, scold, and curse their cabin crew, ground crew, and other airport personnel who also have no control over the whole situation. Indeed, the cabin and ground crew became the receiving end of painful blows from affected passengers, resulting to some of them already crying but still continued to just understand the irate passenger. Many passengers were complaining that they are missing out on business deals, vacations, family reunions, conencting flights, and other personal business they have to attend to. On the other side of the airport, 157 passengers are 8 crew members were undergoing trauma check by airport medical staff and other volunteers.
We are pretty sure that during that very moment, all of those passengers aboard MF8667 thought they would already die as the aircraft skidded off intensively. They all must have thought the aircraft will burst into flames. When the aircraft came to a complete stop, Xiamen Airlines cabin crew quickly went into work, to carry out what they were primarily trained for, and that was to evacuate all 157 passengers right away, and it was done in less than 2 minutes. These passengers were running away from an aircraft which has the possibility to explode anytimes under the rain, on a muddy grass area where the aircraft came into a complete stop. The cabin crew and pilots were last to leave the aircraft, the cabin crew making sure no passengers are left behind before they slide off. Pilots making sure that all safety procedures in the cockpit are followed given the circumstance to ensure the situation will not worsen.
In our airports, as flight cancellation and delays started to grow resulting to more affected passengers, more airport staff had to quickly get to work. Some ground crew were requested to report even when they were home already. Some who were already on off duty had to report for duty to help out in the situation. Some airport staff, cabin crew, and ground crew, had to miss out family reunions, attending to their sick child, and other reasons in order to help affected passengers and to address the mounting situation. Runway staff and airport personnel including MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal and CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco stayed awake round the clock with a little bit or no rest to quickly but properly extract the ill-fated aircraft in order for the single main runway to be used once again and to bring back everything to normal. Pilots and cabin crew who have flown up to four legs or plenty of hours and who have minimum rest are have to be alert at all times and in coordination with airport staff and air traffic control in order for them to fulfill their duties to bring passengers to their destinations safely.
Inside the cabin and airports, our cabin crew and ground crew were on the receiving end of some passenger's words of hated and anger, yet, there is nothing the former can do as they are simply following orders from authorities. CAAP's and MIAA's concern was already the safety of the other airplanes carrying hindreds of passengers, reason why it took quite a time for them to reopen the runway. They had to make sure that the runway is cleared of debris.
More flights were getting diverted to different places in the Philippines. More cancellations, more delays, and more airport staff were required to either work overtime and some to report for duty on a day off. More and more airport staff were being scolded by affected passengers.
NAIA runway 06/24 finally opened close to lunch time today but our airports are congested with affected passengers. Airport staff are working long hours to help normalize the situation faster. Flight crew, flight dispatchers, ramp controllers, cargo, ground crew, and other airport staff, all working in synergy within the bounds of passenger safety to help in normalizing all flights.
For those irate passengers scolding their cabin crew and ground crew for the delays, we do understand that they do have their personal commitments, business deals, reunions, and other reasons, and this is one situation no one, not even the airlines nor even the civil aviation authorities, wanted to happen. No one wanted this, especially that the lives of 165 people were placed at risk.
But it is in times like these where we could lend a bit of more understanding and kindness towards the people working round the clock to help in addressing the situation. Understanding should not only exist from the flight crew and ground crew to their passengers, but it must go both ways to help in addressing the already chaotic situation, and that's one very important lesson we could learn from this given the realities we stated above.
Yes passengers did pay for their airplane tickets and they deserve the service they paid for, but as you see, air transportation is still susceptible to such situations which no one really wants but they still have to be ready for things. Yes, the customer comes first, and when airlines say this, they mean that your safety comes first and is a top priority. They would rather delay your flight but ensure that you get to your destination safely rather than make your flight go on time but at the risk of a fatal incident.
Each and every person involved in this recent situations have their own stories, be them affected passengers, pilots, flight attendants, ground personnel, and airport authorites. At the end, the best way we can all make the situation lighter amongst each other is to extended a random act of more understanding and kindness. Let's not always play the blame game, instead, let's also learn to live for others other than ourselves only. Let's learn to understand each other more and the situation too. Despite whatever reasons we all have, let's just learn to be kind to one another, regardless if you are the paying passenger or the airline personnel.
Let's also learn to appreciate life some more. Anything could have happened to those 165 souls on board the Xiamen Airlines flight 8667 that crash landed. If things went unfavorable, it would have blown-up in flames which may cause the lives of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and children on board. Let's learn to be thankful for the gift of life and to never forget to always pray for the safety of each and everyone travelling.
Let's also look at this as a window of opportunity for our airports and airlines to improve more as there is never an end in the learning curve and to be better than ourselves. There is always room for improvement, and this will definitely benefit every passenger, crew, and stakeholder.
Amidst this situation, let us not forget to look back at the countless number of times our airlines brought us safely to our destination for us to be with our families, those times when the flight and ground crew had to sacrifice being with their own families during holidays to unite you to celebrate Christmas or New Year, and those times that they took care of us as we all flew at 40,000ft above the ground. Yes, those times we forgot to thank them for their services for bringing us across miles and oceans safely and in comfort. As each crew thanks you for purchasing a ticket and flying with them and their airline, let's not forget to thank them too. Gratitude can go both ways.
An act of understanding, kindness, and gratitude. They go both ways, and they go a long long way.