NAIA Quick Fixes – It Ain’t so Bad

 

The NAIA airport terminal has long been the target of a lot of negative press online. Since the now infamous listing as the world’s worst airport in 2010, 2011 and 2013 the airport has slowly been improving its facilities and image.

Having used the airport at least ten times a year for the last five years I have never really thought it was that bad. I probably don’t look vulnerable enough got the Tanim Bala scam. The lines for immigration are reasonable, and since they did away with the unnecessary forms at customs, and airport fee queues it has been a breeze getting through the security checkpoints – whoever finally spoke up about just adding it to the ticket price showed remarkable common sense!

Filipinos have not been so lucky with their extra tax stop still in place. That is another topic altogether though.

The public areas have not been great, but the sky lounge only costs $20 or so and gets you a comfy seat, wifi, a few beverages and some dodgy but edible food. This makes for a reasonably comfortable waiting period. I have definitely experienced much worse in many corners of the globe.

Massive renovations have been underway in terminal 1 for the last few years. The main entrance now taking on a whole new look, and behind the security checkpoint there is at least now a modern and comfortable Starbucks for people to relax in. All good progress.

The new skyway is another big improvement that will take a lot of the stress out of that trip to the airport. You never know what Manila’s roads will throw at you so being able to cruise above all the chaos is a huge plus.

While the improvements should be acknowledged there are a few minor things that would improve the airport experience.

Remove those soliciting taxi fares outside the arrivals hall

These people are opportunistic vultures and are no better than a common thief. I think they should all be thrown in jail for what they do. There is nothing worse for the first impression of a country than to step off a plane and be circled by people who are obviously trying to take advantage of you. It is an awful first impression, and if the country ever wants to shake the reputation of being a place where locals try to rip off foreigners then this one change could make a big difference.

We recently had a visitor come over from our Australian office and paid p1,500 for a coupon taxi from Terminal 1 to Makati. He laughed it off of course when we told him what the regular fair would be – what else can you do?

After getting my terminals mixed up and going to T3 instead of T4 I found myself in a massive hurry to get between terminals. The bus that runs between terminals was no help and there was no schedule, so I could either run or get the coupon taxi. Someone approached me and I asked how much it was to get to T4. They said p1,000…. It took all my self-control to not spit in her face. I did however call her a thief and told her to fuck off. Another guy came running in… p800. My response, putang ina mo. His face turned changed colour I think when i said that.

The coupon desk quoted p300. Still high, but not as insulting as the previous two people. I had to get there so off I went.

I know many Filipinos who are embarrassed by these things. Eradicating it from the terminal is a no brainer if they really want to improve their image.



At least one good food option behind the security checkpoint

Terminal 3 now has an extensive food court with plenty of great meal options. Once you get to the other side of the checkpoints though there is nothing.

The Seattle’s Best used to be a good option with nice toasted sandwiches. This was removed a few months back though. Recently I found myself about to get on a long flight and hungry. I walked up and down looking for something just ok to eat. It was slim pickings everywhere and the best I could find was a basic tuna sandwich. Which they decided to microwave before serving. Leaving the lettuce in the sandwich a shrivelled, brown disgusting mess.

Sarap diba?

One Mcdonalds, Burger King, or anything really. Just one solid option to fill the void left by the row of mediocre food options there will make sure that everyone can have a reasonable meal before getting on a plane for hours.

Now I just get my toasted Panini from the Seattle’s Best in the public area. It keeps well enough in my bag until I get to the other side. This is what my life has come to. Smuggling sandwiches.

The only other thing that would improve the flying experience is getting planes to leave on time. This is not entirely an airport problem though. The airlines and their scheduling are a big part of the problem. The runway at NAIA is crowded. There is no quick fix for that and the airlines should account for this in their schedule. International flights are generally ok, but domestic are only on time before 9am. After this expect an hour delay on a good day, on a bad day 5-6 hours. All local airlines are as bad as each other though so don’t expect any miracles on this any time soon.

Overall NAIA is on the right track to becoming a reputable hub. It will never match the standard of the larger global airports without a complete rebuild. For now it is functional and improving. So credit where credit is due.

Now, if only they could take this idea of building in airport fees into the ticket price and apply it to every other airport in the country. Now that would be progress!!

 

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