Passengers waiting forever to be processed at the country’s premiere airport. Chaos caused by flight delays and cancellations.
Horrendous traffic on what are supposed to be the country’s highways and expressways.
The tourism campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines” would certainly ring hollow if tourists can’t go to and from their preferred destinations in the country with minimum travel time and maximum comfort and convenience.
This is the 21st century. Air travel would seem the easiest and fastest way to see the country but the Philippine experience seems to always come with tales of overcrowding, long lines and missed and delayed flights.
Last week, hundreds if not thousands of passengers found themselves stranded at the airport because of various inefficiencies, including unmanned and undermanned counters, overbooking and flight cancellations, particularly by Cebu Pacific Airlines.
Airline passengers checked in several hours before their flight only to be asked to stay and wait for an announcement that seemed would never come.
Almost all scheduled flights of Cebu Pacific were delayed, with no prompt advice coming from either airlines or airport authorities.
Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya scolded Cebu Pacific for not anticipating the flight delays and cancellations during the holiday rush, including its failure to deploy a company member to personally deal with the complaints of irate passengers.
Abaya also observed that the check-in counters of Cebu Pacific were undermanned during the flight delay crisis at NAIA 3.
What made it worse for the poor airline passengers was the lack of proper facilities to make such an endless wait somewhat a bit more convenient. You can see them on TV just sitting or lying down on the floor.
A lot of foreign tourists are not used to such dismal scenarios in their airports. But stranded passengers in our international as well as our other domestic airports are all too familiar with the fact that our airports aren’t exactly the most convenient places for waiting.
They amuse themselves by checking e-mails, surfing the Web and checking updates on their social-networking sites while waiting for their delayed flights, but they complain there are not even enough facilities for recharging drained batteries of their gadgets.
This is why the country’s premier international airport has consistently ranked among the world’s worst airports in various reviews.
Travel by land during the holidays was equally hellish.
Senate President Franklin Drilon knows this only too well. He joined thousands of holiday commuters and spent a record 11-and-a-half hours on the road to Baguio City.
I said record because, according to Drilon in a story by the Inquirer, his nearly half-day trip on Dec. 26 was the longest ride to Baguio that he had experienced. He left San Juan City in Metro Manila at 7 a.m. and arrived in the summer capital at 6:30 p.m.
Now he is threatening to conduct a Senate inquiry into the “inefficiencies” of the toll collection system at the expressways, which he said exacerbated the traffic situation.
The operator of two expressway networks attributed the traffic congestion to the huge number of vehicles going to Baguio and other popular vacation spots in northern Luzon.
But shouldn’t they have anticipated this and found ways to add more toll booths and personnel? If people are paying good money to use your roads, you should at least make it easier for them to do so. Why charge them and inconvenience them at the same time! That is a double whammy right there.
Drilon is right about our tollway system being part of the traffic problem rather than its solution.
“It’s an expressway, but when you get to the tollgate it becomes a barangay road,” Drilon said in the Inquirer interview. He recalled that it took him one hour to traverse a 2-kilometer stretch leading to one tollbooth.
Government officials and industry experts really need to solve our transportation woes, be it on our airports, our highways or our ports, and soon.
Otherwise, the Philippines won’t ever live up to its tourism billing.
Because waiting for hours on end for a flight that might or might never come is certainly no fun.
Being stranded on an expressway that turns into a parking lot during tourist season is no fun.
How can you invite more tourists to come and visit the Philippines and tell them it’s fun when you can’t even guarantee their efficiency of travel?