One word… beautiful.
That’s how most people who traveled in the country would attribute the Philippines, its destinations and people.
But great destinations need good infrastructure to support and attract more people to come. And I believe, this is what spoils the goodness in major destinations in the country.
From traffic, to zigzaging buses and jeeps like in slalom race along EDSA, to crooked taxi drivers charging exhorbitant fare (worse hold upper guised as cab drivers), to airport brouhahas, the problems are endless.
Yet, we can see that many are still interested to wander of to the Philippines.
That’s why it is but fitting to take note of our transportation system, which has not improved so much for almost a decade. (See it for yourself here)
But, in this case, let me zero in on Philippine airports, since airports are the first and last things that any tourist would be experiencing and the whole trip can be overlooked, primarily of a horrible experience in airports.
So whether you’re a frequent or first time plane passenger in the country, for whatever purpose of your trip, you will all go through the same area and processes in the Philippine airports.
I am certain that the following news below did not escape your radar. You or a person you might know may even had an experience like these:
- Mentally-ill Pinay slipping through Kalibo Airport and traveled all the way to Incheon Airport in South Korea
- A Mindanao town mayor and three others shot dead at NAIA Terminal 3 loading bay wherein no CCTV cameras were installed.
- Erring passengers due to delayed flights
- Plane overshoots in Kalibo due to weather disturbance
- Delay and flight cancellation caused by sunset limitation
And to top it all, a grandslam, three straight years:
- NAIA was dubbed as the world’s worst airport. NAIA was overtaken by the new worst airport only last year.
I may not be an expert on air transportation, but I believe, as a passenger and tourist, the above articles just summarize some of the major concerns that stakeholders – government and private sector – need to address.
Let me point out first, that we need to address the situation of Philippine airports with a positive note – a good problem, for that matter.
The airport congestion is a direct result of the increasing number of passengers traveling in the country. And this, I believe, is due to tourism. The increase of tourism in the country can boost the Philippine economy to a new height and can put the nation in the forefront of business and leisure destination in the region.
We cannot expect to accommodate the increasing number of travelers, if we can only support a few. So
here are a few points to consider, I can think of:
- Increase the main gateways with easy and fast access to other modes of transports
- Install night landing facilities
- Enhance security (CCTV) and airport service advancements (wifi, comfort rooms, better benches, air condition, better food and retail concessionaires, parking lot for cars) in all other airports so local and foreign tourists will feel safe as well (or even safer) going to other airports than just through NAIA
- Carriers can make the checking-in faster through web check-in implementation on the ground. Investing on tablets, passengers already on the airport, with no luggages can easily check-in through roving carrier personnel with tablet and data connection. This way, it can lessen the risk of people piling up the line
INCREASE MAIN GATEWAYS WITH EASY ACCESS
One solution is to increase gateways in the Philippines. Or better yet have Clark International Airport as main gateway of most flights going to and from the country. As of writing time, there is an initiative of the government to do this. (read it here)
In effect, this would create more good than harm in many aspects:
- The improved expressways in the north can be capitalized by inbound and outbound passengers in the greater Manila area
- Increase tourism and business in the area
- Create jobs and businesses
- Decongest Metro Manila
I saw this approach working for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia wherein the government closed down their old airport and shifted their flights through LCCT (now closed) and KLIA. Their airports is 45-minutes away from the main district.
I believe that the current link of Northern Luzon Expressway to Clark International Airport (especially when it connects to Southern Luzon Expressway soon) would do just fine as we prepare for a faster direct train connecting Clark Airport to Metro Manila, just like the train station at Changi Airport in Singapore.
NEW RUNWAY VS NEW TERMINAL
DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya recently favored the construction of a new terminal and junked plan of constructing a 2,100 feet parallel runway that could have increased the arrival and departure capacity of NAIA.
With PAL adding 38 planes by 2024 and Cebu Pacific 50 planes more by 2021, I can only imagine how busy it can be more at NAIA.
I would personally favor a new runway. This way increasing the arrival and departure of planes from NAIA.
The case being NAIA being the main gateway of Philippines, is like trying to catch a continuous flow of water with just one bucket. At first, it might accommodate the flow. But as the water from the source increases in volume, the faster it is to fill the bucket.
Putting another terminal is just like having a dipper, it can only get a few, no matter how big it might be, but still the volume of the flow can overtake the displacement of water from the bucket to the next bucket using the dipper.
Even a child would suggest that the solution is to replace the bucket with a far bigger one. Or divert the flow through a hose or funnel to the next bucket.
Opening a new terminal may be cheaper, in the short term perspective, but it may cost us more – in terms of delay and inconvenience, in serving the growing number of passengers in the future.
So, I find it a better solution to build parallel runaways to increase number of planes to take-off and land in NAIA.
If this is a “costly” move, then, the efficiency of traffic and time of usage of runway should be implemented.
I remember when the plane I boarded taxied for more than 30 minutes waiting for its turn to take flight. The delay in taking-off of one plane definitely delays the next. So, I think, efficiency in traffic management is a “cheaper” way to do this.
But the problem with this, again, is how long that system will last, if more flights will come in and go out of NAIA.
INSTALL NIGHT LANDING FACILITIES
Have you heard of sunset limitation? In a time of glow-in-the-dark toys, we still have airports which are not capable of having planes to use the strips when its dark. That’s why it’s called sunset limitation. The airport is basically dependent on natural light.
This sunset limitation can also cause delay and congestion of people using the airports during peak, instead of giving more options to travel late at night or even very early in the morning.
As a passenger, one of the most pressing and more tangible concerns in airports is security. Installation of working CCTVs is a basic requirement for airports nowadays. There is no excuse for a wide perimeter vision of the whole area, given the number of people in transit.
That is why, I find it ironic not to have CCTVs installed in the NAIA 3 loading area wherein four people, including a Zamboanga del Sur town mayor was killed in 2013, when digital video system has never been more affordable than before.
Plus, the recent news of a mentally-ill Fiipina sneaking through airport security and getting to Incheon Airport, South Korea.
It very uncharacteristic for an international airport to having a person slipped through security. So, both facilities and personnel need to be reinforced.
IMPROVE AIRPORT FACILITIES and SERVICES
Airport facilities are expected be aesthetically functional. It is the first and last place that any traveler will be seeing on his trip to the and within the Philippines. It is only fitting to have working, beautiful airports.
- It is good that some of the airport terminals in NAIA have free WIFI. I just hope that it will a basic requirement for all major gateways as many tourists are data-dependent individuals.
- Decent comfort rooms is a must. No ifs and buts.
- Accessibility for PWD and elderly. The terminal itself should have a wheelchair – and not just rely on carriers to provide for passengers.
I experienced this personally, when my grandmother arrived from US. We got out too early for our vehicle to arrive. In short, we gave back the wheelchair to the personnel, thinking we won’t be needing it.
So, as we went back inside to eat while waiting, we were told by airport personnel that we had to contact the carrier that flew in my Lola to Manila for another wheelchair.
However, the carrier’s counter is already closed.
To cut the long story, my Lola tried her best to walk across NAIA terminal at age 80 for her to go to the comfort room, eat and drink, before we headed home.
I just cannot imagine that airport terminals having no service wheelchairs to lend.
- MOBILE WEB CHECK-IN. In the advent of smart gadgets, data connection and web check-in, passenger congestion in terminals can be minimized through personnel having to check-in passengers to prevent long queues. It is but a small investment for tablets and data connection, compared to having fined due to massive delayed flights.
Fixing the air transportation system can very much help the economy of the Philippines. Not only it can boost the tourism sector in the county, but also uplift many businesses in the country that depend on fast, reliable and secure transportation.
I cannot imagine the Philippines being more globally competitive if our air transportation is not improved soon.
To be at par, at least, with ASEAN stalwart neighbors like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand’s tourism (check the stats here), we need to counter Philippine airports’ issues with long-term solutions. Now is not the time for “Band-aid solutions” or “Pwede na mentality. It can only do so much.
In the end, we still have to take that big leap for the bigger, longer and sustainable usage of our airways and airports.
Close to saying:
We may have FIRST CLASS ATTRACTIONS, it is but fitting not to take a THIRD WORLD APPROACH on our transportation and tourism concerns, like our airports.
Again, I am appealing to the DOTC, DOT, NEDA and private organizations, to take note of these things. I am sure that there are lots of things on your plates, but, with these concerns being addressed accordingly, there is a high chance, that the other matters will be more manageable, if not irrelevant anymore.
So, how about you? What solutions do you suggest for the Philippine airports to improve on?
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