MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aviation authorities said Tuesday they were investigating Cebu Pacific pilots and crew who left passengers waiting some 15 minutes before deploying emergency slides on a plane that overshot the runway and landed on its nose.
None of the 165 passengers was injured, but several complained about the slow response. The rough landing in stormy weather Sunday evening forced the closure of the Davao International Airport in the southern Philippines while the Airbus A320-200 remained stuck on the runway.
Civil Aviation Authority Deputy Director General John Andrews said that the pilots’ error probably caused the accident.
“Everyone panicked. Women and children were screaming,” Percival Jacones told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He said that the cabin crew appeared stunned and that it took 15 minutes before the captain came out of the cockpit to address the passengers.
Davao Mayor Sara Duterte said airport management was late in alerting city emergency services about the landing and denied quick access to the passengers. She said that an airport security guard phoned Emergency 911 to report the accident. The aviation authority said that all angles will be investigated.
Andrews told reporters that the pilots and cabin crew have been grounded pending the investigation. He said that the pilots violated the standard operating procedure by not ordering an immediate evacuation of the aircraft.
Cebu Pacific President Lance Gokongwei apologized but also defended the crew’s action.
“In this situation we may not have handled all issues perfectly, but we can learn from this experience,” Gokongwei told ABS-CBN TV.
The plane had departed from the capital, Manila. Cebu Pacific is the Philippines’ largest low-cost carrier. It operates 33 Airbus planes and eight ATRs, and also flies on regional routes.
A similar accident occurred in 2011, when a Cebu Pacific plane overshot the runway in Puerto Princesa in western Palawan province. There were no casualties.
The Ateneo de Davao University, which had members aboard Sunday’s flight, published an open letter saying it will boycott the airline to protest “the insensitivity and ineptness” of the crew.
“Your personnel lack training for an emergency situation. They froze. They did not know what do to. They must be able to put the welfare of the passengers before their own,” said university President Joel Tabora.