January 16, 2012

In and out's not so easy

The Philippines has long been adamant about promoting tourism. It IS a beautiful country. What I don't get is why no one's trying to improve the infrastructure to support the influx of people. It needs to be upgraded NOW. Let's begin with the airport, shall we?

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. I've been flying in and out of NAIA ever since it was Manila International Airport. I wish I can say it has changed much, but not really. During our last trip, arriving there was a nightmare. The airport was hot. I know that the Philippines is a tropical country, but please...we'll experience soon enough that it's hot outside.

As we were heading out the plane, NAIA employees greeted us. What were they doing there? Shouldn't they be working instead? Or is that part of their job description? Goodness knows, we don't need greeters. We're tired. We just want to get through immigration, get our luggages, get past customs and head out. If there's time, maybe grab a quick bite. Welcome us with your comfortable airport facilities. That's all.

Immigration? A nightmare. The long lines, even when we arrived past midnight, was hard to understand. We came home during the holiday season, but something has to be done about the lines. After we got our luggages, going past customs was a breeze, so excellent on that.

Heading out, I felt cheerful at what I thought was a semblance of order amidst the chaos. Depending on your last name, you go either on the left ramp or the right ramp. Is there a difference? Turns out, NOT MUCH. Either way, you end up where the greeters are. What's the logic behind it? I have no clue. As you reach the bottom of the ramp, you see a THRONG of people, a sea of faces out there. Was it overwhelming? Most definitely. I remember backing off and then going back again. I had to take a deep breath before joining the fray.

There were security people who kept whistling and whistling no end. You'd seriously have to cover your ears. It didn't really make the traffic flow faster. It added noise to the already noisy din - cars honking, people talking and yelling. Heaven help us. By the time you leave the airport, chances are, you've lost hearing temporarily.

On the day we left the country, I was irritated yet again by the terminal fee, otherwise known as the "Airport User's Charge". Ever heard of this in any airport you've flown out of? Only in the Philippines. You'll see the breakdown of this charge on the right. PD1957 and EO 030 seem both worrisome and hilarious to me.

Let's put it this way, NAIA is 30 years old. It has not aged well. Sure, they can promote its retro vibe, but seriously, it's just stuck in some time warp. I know fixing it up will take a lot of money. But it'll be a good investment. Just don't get lazy and do cosmetic changes when the airport sadly needs more than that. The Diosdado Macapagal (Clark) International Airport is already a far better, though infinitely smaller, airport than NAIA. If you can do it there, then go for it with NAIA. After all, your first impression of a country comes from your experience at the airport upon arrival.

Focus on the facilities that travelers use most in airports - restrooms, relaxing seats and restaurants.

That way, it'll be more fun to arrive in the Philippines.


Lani said...

Frommers just named NAIA 2nd worst airport terminal. Bested only by the Delta terminal in JFK.

Meikah said...

This is what I don't get: am sure our leaders have traveled around the world, but why can't they do a Lee Kuan Yew? If I remember correctly, he bought a newspaper in London just by getting the paper and putting in his payment in some machine. And he thought to himself that Singapore should have this kind of convenience. Look at Singapore now.