HOPING AGAINST hope and against great odds that things improve, I’m going to do something unpopular and say something that I think many of my countrymen (and countrywomen) have felt for some time now : our airport sucks.
I use an unequivocal term (sucks, rhymes with an even worse term that we need not use in polite conversation) that leaves little room for doubt. In almost every which way our airport is inferior to others in our region, and especially in light of the fact that very near our NAIA 2 are two world-class airports (as in, tops in the whole wide world) that in relative terms just make us look worse.
Notice that I don’t try to disown or distance myself from this sad situation : Manila International is mine as a Pinoy who was born and bred here, and will always call the Philippines my home. Not migration, nor assimilation, nor time, nor distance will stop me from calling the Ninoy Aquino International Airport my home base. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the immutable fact that, again, said airport sucks.
I’m afraid it doesn’t get any better from here : there are so many ways to pan the place, from its threadbare carpets, its old, old, washrooms, to its inefficient air-conditioning. But because the boarding time call is nigh, and I’m about to lose internet time, I’m just going to focus on two areas.
First, why are the airport’s facilities focused on making sure the OFW, especially those on their way back to the salt mines, has paid the OWWA levy? There is an added layer of checkpoints/booths just to make sure such fee has been paid. OFWs are not allowed to board unless they have paid such fee, and their receipts verified and/or cleared.
A good amount of space in the airport, right next to the airline check-in counters, is devoted to last-minute payments of OFWs who might have forgotten to pay their fees. It’s declared by successive administrations that in recognition of the OFW’s nation-building contributions, travel tax is waived, but wouldn’t it sound more sincere if the OWWA imposition was likewise taken off our hardworking kabayan’s back?
Secondly, in almost every corner of many airports across the East Asian semi-continent, you see various conveniences thoughtfully laid out for the traveller. Shops that peddle items that you might’ve forgotten and urgently need, lounges, even shower rooms and changing rooms for your baby.
Instead of copying this trend, our airport seems to be going backward. Even the most basic toilet services are being neglected in both quantity and quality. Not only are there not enough facilities, the existing ones look quite old and shabby. Think broken tiles and toilet seats that have seen better days. No soap, and yes Virginia, no toilet paper.
So sorry to nitpick, but instead of basic comforts for our poor OFWs, tourists and business travellers, the airport authority would rather invest on : a cigar shop, simcard booths and a smoker’s room. There are lounges, yes, but I would bet my last pirated DVD that this is exclusively for business class and first class elites.
And I know I promised only two complaints, but something really sticks down the back of my throat : the check-in counter of the airline we travelled on (no fault of the airline itself; the latter is actually one of the better carriers around) was identified only via a temporary looking banner or trapal behind their counters. Very amateurish, no permanent signage and quite unbelievable for a national airport.
Just one more moan and groan : did you know that past the immigration checkers but well-within the duty free area, there is not one single money-changer / bank outlet for the multitudes who might want to change pesos into other money and vice-versa? Truly deplorable. You need to go out back into the check-in area and look for one of only two bank branches where the staff sleepily change your money, at uncompetitive rates by the way. Sheesh.
It’s hard to exaggerate the decrepitude of your very own airport when, sorry to say, it certainly looks like they don’t even try. Remember, this is the premier airport / tourism facility of a country riding high on a world-class tourism campaign.
I’m not looking for explanations or even replies from public relations or corporate communications experts of either our airport or the national government of my country. In fact, I am quite aware that my observations will be construed as unduly negative, unpatriotic or even contrary to efforts to develop our image abroad.
I just want our airport to make travel easier, be more user-friendly, change the mindset of the jaded jetsetter, and prove to all OFWs that their taxes are channeled to projects that affect them directly. Giving NAIA a long-overdue makeover will do all of the above.
And it needs to be done yesterday.
Thanks for reading!
- Honest OFW returns money worth over P80,000 (rappler.com)
- Orlando airport to spend $172M on new parking garage despite empty spots (myparkingsign.com)