Pothole in runway delays 121 flights at Taiwan's Taoyuan Airport

CNA file photo

CNA file photo (CNA photo)

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport's south runway reopened Sunday after a pothole was discovered the previous day, causing delays to 121 flights.

The flights were delayed by an average of 52 minutes, with a Singapore-bound flight operated by Scoot, Singapore Airlines Group's budget airline, suffering the longest delay of nine hours, according to Taoyuan International Airport Corp. (TIAC).

The Scoot flight departed from Japan's Hokkaido and was scheduled to arrive in Singapore via Taiwan.

The flight should have landed at Taoyuan Airport at 9:20 p.m. Saturday and departed at 10:20 p.m. that same day but was forced to divert to Kaohsiung Airport after the discovery of the pothole.

It did not arrive in Taoyuan until 1:43 a.m. Sunday before taking off at 8 a.m., according to the company.

General manager of Scoot Taiwan, Victor Lee (李育修), confirmed that the flight was forced to divert to Kaohsiung Airport, leading to a nine-hour delay.

The airline then arranged accommodation for the 286 passengers to take a rest at Taoyuan Airport before leaving for Singapore, he said.

A 45cm long, 30cm wide and 3cm deep pothole was discovered at about 6:00 p.m. during a routine inspection with repair work not completed until 10:15 p.m. Saturday, according to TIAC.

It said the runway reopened during the early hours of Sunday after the paving material on the runway surface cooled down.

The 121 delayed flights included 85 inbound and 36 outbound flights, with eight inbound flights forced to divert to Kaohsiung Airport, including four operated by China Airlines, two by EVA Air, and one each from Scoot and Tigerair Taiwan, TIAC data showed.

In response, Wang Ming-teh (王明德), TIAC's new chairman, said Sunday he is determined to fix the problems at the airport, the country's main gateway, and will demand airport staff face issues rather than cover them up.

Since Wang assumed his post less than three months ago, he has had to deal with several serious problems. Other than the runway pothole, travelers were stuck in the airport's elevators during a power outage last Friday.

Given that the south runway at Taoyuan Airport resumed operation in January 2015 following an 11-month closure for renovations, the pothole spotted on Saturday is not an isolated problem, Wang said.

The airport suffers from systematic problems he is working to resolve, he added.

He is striving to improve operations at the airport on several fronts, including improving water and electricity supply infrastructure, runway safety and ensuring flights arrive and depart on schedule, Wang noted.