sad but true : this shabby airport is my own

where the adventures of all OFWs start :(

where the adventures of all OFWs start 😦

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!

39 thoughts on “sad but true : this shabby airport is my own

  1. I don’t know why they haven’t thought of renovating this, it is the first and last impression the country makes to the visitors. They can’t help but judge our country on the poor state of our main international airport. Especially those who pass by on transit only and would not have the opportunity to see the rest of the country. One friend who got detoured in Manila stayed in NAIA airport for a few hours had only negative things to say about it. I had the hardest time trying to convince her that disregarding the airport the Philippines is a really nice place for a vacation and she can always choose to arrive at the PAL terminal instead.

    • my thoughts exactly JM ! for a while I thought I may have been a bit too harsh on our airport but your comments made me realize I am not alone in my judgment. thanks and more power to your very popular blog!

    • hahaha thanks and kung pwede lang sana ResidentPatriot! salamat sa comment! 🙂 kakauwi ko lang kasi kaya bago ko pa malimutan yung mga nakita ko ay binlag ko na agad.

  2. My sentiments exactly, Noel! I even think you were kind enough by holding back on the criticisms. This international airport definitely feels like a backward town airport in terms of space (claustrophobic) and amenities (lack of it).
    As for the “special” OFW lanes, there isn’t anything special about these. A non-overseas worker would get the impression that the OFWs are being herded like cattle and are treated with disdain by the airport personnel. I’ve heard the condescending tone used by the uniformed guys as they clear our kababayan through immigration and customs.
    We can’t help but compare our own airport with airports of other countries. It’s not that we are unreasonable or too maarte but that we definitely deserve something better. This paliparan won’t fly anyway you look at it.

    • wow, and I thought I was being unkind with my statements. 🙂 I didn’t realize that that was how the OFW was being treated until you told me so Joy. thanks for the comment! yes, the comparisons unfavorable as they are, are inevitable.

  3. after more than 17 years na pagdurusa, ‘di pa rin nga nila mapag-dikit ang mtr 2 and lrt 1 sa north edsa. they tried, pero bitin pa rin (one f*cking station short!). tapos asa pa tayo maayos ang airport? public transport is hell in manila, you know why? because gov’t officials ride on suvs and luxury cars provided by public funding. the one thing i always envy from other countries is their effective and efficient public transport system. puro sakripisyo na inabot ng publiko sa ‘pinas. grabe.

  4. Matanong nga…SAAN o KAYA,,,KANINO…NAPUPUNTA ANG SO-CALLED “TRAVEL TAX” NA SINISINGIL SA MGA BIYAHERO KUNG ANG SARILI NATING MAJOR AIRPORT AY NAPAPABAYAAN?! At ang nakakapundi ay sobra pang pataas at pataas pa ito! Also, didn’t you notice that the AIRPORT PERSONNEL ESPECIALLY THOSE at the CUSTOMS, IMMIGRATION, and CURRENCY EXCHANGE COUNTERS ARE SO VERY DEAD DRY and VERY UNWELCOMNG? THESE MISFITS TREAT INCOMING VISITORS LIKE UNWANTED INTRUDERS–most of the time only to their “tsismis” and slacking-off. I mean, how much does it cost for a smile, a “Thank you/Salamat po!”, a “Welcome to the Philippines!” and best of all…”Welcome back home po!”??!??

  5. Actually the sad state of the airport is just being consistent with the sad state of the country. Look at the last election and I respectfully rest my case without going into the horrid details. At least leaches (lintas) have the “decency” to let go when they are full with blood. These people will not let go and will even call on their wife or wives, sons, daughters, compadres etc to come and join in the sucking. And the people happily join in inviting them by cooperating in all those election shenanigans and post election robbery.

    • hahaha, wow I didn’t realize the sad state of the airport would be such a mirror of our national affairs! Thanks for your incisive and intelligent comment tukayong Noel, it’s worth thinking about for the rest of the day!

  6. Sharing your sentiments exactly, as we travel back and forth through this NAIA 1 enduring all of the above! It’s more shame, frustration and hassle than fun. A shout out to the DOT, DOTC and Malacanang! Hey you have to fix this, before you spend millions of $$$ to make it “more fun”.

    • hahahaha, kahit inis na inis ka Sustainability Guru at least you can still make a light hearted comment 🙂 thanks! and more power to your awesome blog!

    • yes, it did occur to me that having his and his father’s name should be reason enough for the President to pay a little more attention to our airport situation. Thanks Carlo!

  7. Here’s what I know. Initially, NAIA 2 was designed to be our new domestic terminal. However, it became a PAL airport, for both domestic and international flights (that’s why all the immigration counters are makeshift). MAIA 3 was supposed to replace NAIA 1 as our main International terminal. It started construction in 1997. Yes, it was 16 years ago. We all know what happened there and now it operates manually (the government grabbed it without payment and so were never handed the keys to run the systems).

    If we stuck to the original plan, we would have had a more up-to-date and presentable international airport in NAIA terminal 3, a really pleasant domestic terminal in NAIA 2 and no need to renovate NAIA 1. We could’ve been enjoying this scenario for the past 10 years.

    None of this solves the lack of airport runways though.

  8. Very nice piece. And I like how ResidentPatriot’s comment on how to obliterate this poor excuse of an airport. If the government cannot maintain this, might as well turn it over to the private sector. Our country boasts of numerous malls, the biggest ones in the world and yet the main gateway into it is crap. Perhaps a public bidding to handle NAIA is in order. A major renovation is long overdue and has to be done now, not tomorrow. Hopefully, delays are not being caused by ways on how to make the project their milking cow and recoup election campaign expenses.

    God, I know you’re helping our country… maybe just some more?

    • very true AA, and the applicable law I think is the Build-Operate-Transfer law where walang kahirap hirap ang govt pero they are allowed to grab all the credit for improving the airport, hay sana nga mangyare ito, and please continue to make comments if ever you visit my humble little blogsite again, more power to you and mabuhay ang Pinoy! thanks again for your intelligent comments!

    • hi Binky and thanks for the comment and links. I’m willing to admit that I may have overlooked some efforts and actual renovations done at the NAIA, it was in part an emotional response to my personal experience, after all. 🙂 still I’m grateful for your feedback!

      • I forgot to tell you that all those were just plans..

        the only thing that materialized on that wonderful renovation plan was the bathroom and the lounge.. the rest was not accommodated because of “lack of budget”.

        sorry to keep your hopes high.. 🙂

      • hahahahaha! i’m speechless! it’s one instance where I’m not happy to be proven right. 🙂 thanks again! more power to your awesome blog!

  9. I have always preached that the role of a destination marketing organization is equally to “manage” a destination as much as it is to market it. We do not want our tourists feeling ripped off that the splashy “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign showcasing the best the country has to offer was indeed all a hoax. If the Philippines attracts more tourists and does not successfully meet the expectations inspired from this campaign, the PR doctors are going to have to get to work to prevent negative word of mouth from spreading. First and last impressions count in all aspects of life. While I appreciate resources are limited, you are absolutely correct to point out that even thoughtful touches have been overlooked on basic services like toilet paper. The airport overall may not be esthetically pleasing but there is absolutely no excuse for not providing basic services for the convenience of travellers. That is something that wouldn’t require any major investment at all and might even generate revenue. Government-run airports are a bad idea PERIOD. The country deserves to have its best foot forward so that it can compete effectively not just in tourism but the airline business as well. I’ll continue to transit through Singapore!

    • A very thoughtful and penetrating comment Darryl, how I wish those decision-makers could read your post here. 🙂 thanks for your time and cheers!

  10. Thanks Noel. I can also compare our airport to the one I had now, there are lots of useless and abusive personnel in NAIA terminal 1, asking for money and sometimes too pushy. Just went home last August, and so frustrated with our kababayans. Even the male guard outside the departure area as if he’s going to eat me when he saw me wandering looking for a queue. Have talked to some friends and have the same rating to this airport, poor service and staff.

    • so sad but not really surprised to hear your comment Lilet, for a while just after Martial Law it seemed that everyone, including common people, wanted to give government services the benefit of the doubt, but it seems it’s too much to hope for a world-class, service-oriented tourism industry guided by a visionary administration. thanks again!

  11. Your assessment is to the point. I think you’re not unkind to voice your dissatisfaction with “our” (I am not disowning it too) airport. I really wish our government will do the necessary upgrade and facelift it badly needed.

    • hahaha, as always a very diplomatic and concise with your comment Doc, I join your desire to see our government do something about the face we show to the world! 🙂 more power to your very popular blog!

  12. Renovation of NAIA 1 is on going and its not reported by mainstream media. Same as with NAIA 3. It should have been NAIA 3 which is the main airport long time ago but due to what happened in the past it will be hopefully the main airport and make NAIA 1 as the budget terminal, as all budget terminals should look like. By the way, the waiting area before boarding flight in NAIA 1 looks good. Newly carpeted floors plus cable t.v. and free wi-fi. You should try to to fly here in Jeddah International Airport and then make a comparison on what airport is worst. I have seen bad chairs with holes, no wi-fi, bad and filthy toilets here in Jeddah International airport. So saying NAIA 1 is the worst airport or shabby airport is unfair.

    • thanks for that comment khalil, like I said what I blogged may not be completely accurate, it’s just what I perceived from my limited experience. Still, I appreciate your feedback and thank you for your opinion. 🙂

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