• Airports and the Manila Airport

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    Gone are the days when passing through an airport was the exciting prelude to a vacation or a desired destination. Airports are now stress points where passage is fraught with delay and discomfort.

    Our Manila airport has been labeled one of the worst in the world. The standard of judgment seems to be that it offers no entertainment or comfort or solace for those who have to spend hours there because of delay for some reason or other. The restrooms are inadequate, the food and passenger areas are minimal. No place to bed down in comfort undisturbed as may be possible in other more spacious, less crowded, more service-laden airports.

    Is this judgment fair based on the above? I do not think so. In today’s airports where delays are common and crowds are ubiquitous, all airports are in the same boat (weird metaphor but conveys the sense of equality of discomfort on a voyage).

    As the world has become smaller and the air has become the venue for airplanes filled to the brim with people on journeys crisscrossing each other, it is more possible than not that facilities will be overloaded and overcrowded resulting in late arrivals and departures and all the accompanying onerous conditions that they come with.

    Last August I waited 7 hours in Logan Airport in Boston before I took off for my destination, Detroit, where I was to catch a connecting flight to Japan and then Manila. The reason for the delay was that the plane coming from New York had a technical glitch which while minor took a bit of time to fix. Whereupon the flight coming from New York to Boston lost its place in the flight line for departure from the tarmac. First notice we received was it would be a delay for 40 minutes, then two hours, finally no more estimated times of arrival were given. By four hours into delay some wraps (sandwiches decidedly unappetizing to me because of too much carbohydrates in the thick bread and minimal content) were offered with soda pop or water. Then somewhere into five hours plus an announcement was made that our plane was leaving its New York gate from which it took the better part of an hour before taking off. Total wait – seven hours.

    Naturally, I lost my connection to Japan, had to line up in Detroit to get a voucher for an overnight stay in a modest airport hotel and a voucher for food which was not really enough for a decent meal, just a snack or a diet meal. I was so tired that night from my long day at the airport but had to use my local and international mobile phones to tell people concerned I was delayed by 24 hours. The next day, I dashed off to the airport, passed security, got a boarding pass, reached the gate and looked into my handbag for my phones. Only to realize I had left them among the bed clothes at the hotel, so stressed and rushed I was to catch my new flight. So, I exited, took a taxi to retrieve my phones, which I found readily since my room had not yet been made and went back to the airport, passed security and got back to the gate, etc. It cost time, money, stress, energy, discomfort and aggravation. And there was nothing to be done but grin and bear it. Just from the line of delayed passengers the day before to get the hotel and food vouchers, I realized I was not alone, the event was virtually normal and everyone was taking it on the chin. I worried about my luggage and I was right. When I got home my new suitcase had had one wheel ripped off, which the dear airline in whose custody it had been for 48 hours washed its hands of any responsibility.

    These are the flight and airport conditions of today which are in effect everywhere except in super efficient airports like Changi in Singapore, if not affected by airport delays elsewhere. In which case they too would be delayed. It is a domino effect.

    But I am not excusing our airport, particularly the authorities that are responsible for their management. And definitely our Manila terminals, all of three of them, are mismanaged. No order in traffic conditions outside, no discipline in the loading and unloading of passengers, no one caring for the neighbor’s comfort as they look after themselves and hog the lanes waiting for passengers that are not yet ready to board the vehicle, etc. No one in charge of handling the mess is effective.

    Then there is the venality. Yes, that is what I will call it. And here are the latest manifestations. What about the bullet placed in the luggage of a missionary’s son to cause an occasion for extortion? What about the office of transport personnel caught on CCTV spiriting away an OFW’s bag? What about escorting wanted people through airport security like the Reyes brothers wanted by the law, or aliens on the run from our authorities? What about enabling traffickers to accomplish their evil deeds, what about filching from or blackmailing passengers with regards to their luggage? There is more I am sure from the lawlessness that takes place all around including homicide or murder in the premises with nary an effective retort like catching the culprits.

    I dropped a friend off to take a domestic flight. When I got back, my car would not start as the battery had given out. Since I am a member of the Automotive Association of the Philippines, which offers towing service for its members, I quickly called for them and they were on their way. My car was not obstructing traffic having parallel parked. But suddenly and very efficiently, a tow truck came to forcibly remove my car, called by the airport police. No matter how much and how vehemently I explained that I had my own towing service, the hoodlums (I stand by this term) of the tow truck brought my car all the way to Bicutan despite my pleas to leave it at the nearest gas station. It took ransom to get my car back from Bicutan from those criminal tow truck elements who were obviously aided and abetted by the airport police. I wrote to the Airport Manager who never deigned to answer. But I did get the MMDA, the LTFRB and the Consumer Complaint service to answer. One answer said that the towing company had not renewed its license. But it was graciously hosted by the Manila airport authorities to harass unfortunate motorists. There is an explanation here somewhere. Now I get it, the universal judgment of our Manila airport as the worst in the world comes not from its lack of amenities but its surplus of venal machinations.

    So I take it back that the judgment that Manila has the worst airport is unfair. Our Manila airport is indeed the worst in the world because of the venality that flourishes there which is so obvious it cannot have escaped the airport authorities who play deaf, dumb and blind. Are they really?

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    6 Comments

    1. if there’s a will there’s a way……. If they really want to see those tourism numbers climb and if they are truly committed to improving the country’s image They should be spending hundreds and millions of dollar for infrastructure like airports. The government has the money, but they always use the “no budget” excuse. It’s time for the Philippines to think about long term quality changes instead of shitty short term fixes! I pray to god that incompetent politicians do not take office next year like Binay and Pacquiao!!!!!

    2. the only way to change this bad management at the airports is maybe for Bong Bong Marcos or Duterte to be the next president. they will get the job done.

    3. Manuel Jaime jr on

      I am a former Seaman also,and i have seen how from its former glory as one of the best airports in the world,MIA or NAIA as it is now renamed,has deteriorated into the worst airport local and foreign tourists branded it.While airports all over the world,especially in the ASEAN region,raced to upgrade and modernized them,the Philippines for almost 30 years lay idle to build a more modern one.Vietnam for an example have committed $4 billion and is starting to build a larger more convenient airport complex that can cater to 10 million tourists that they foresee would influx their country.I cant help recalling the times when,while waiting for an announcement for boarding in Frankfurt airport,for a connecting flight to Istanbul,i or a passenger can lay conveniently waiting or window shop for a while in that sprawling terminal to pass the time until the final announcement for boarding is conveyed.I hope to see a Philippine President who will have the political will to build an airline terminal that can be compared to the best the world can offer…

    4. I’m permanent resident in the Philippines since 2008 and I’m seamen meaning every 5 weeks i take a plane from Mindanao to my vessel.
      Yes manila airport is not the best in the world but I saw a lot of improvement.
      And I can tell you worse airport exist in the world…
      I agree the airport management needs to improve the quality of the airport to give a good impression to all the new tourist

    5. I remember last year, I was on my way to the airport when my battery suddenly died along EDSA. I immediately called AAP but they told me that it’ll take at least an hour for their tow truck to get to where I was. My friend recommended to just call Motolite and have my battery changed. By the time I was talking to the Motolite agent, an old MMDA tow truck parked behind my car as if it was preparing to tow me away already. The agent told me it was going to take 30 minutes for my battery to be delivered so when I hung up the phone and the MMDA talked to me, I asked them for a grace period since my battery was coming already. Fortunately, the delivery guy from Motolite came just in time and saved me from that unsafe MMDA truck and unnecessary expense.

      Now I always tell my friends that they should have their batteries delivered instead of waiting for those dilapidated and abusive tow trucks.

    6. Our airports are not only the worst in the world but one of the most unsafe. I have to make sure my relatives are driven to and picked up from the airport for safety. This I don’t have to do when we are overseas, where safety is not a concern and my children travels alone with no worries but in the Phils they have to companions again safety in numbers.