I recently flew out from the countries primary hub for international travel, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. For the uninitiated, NAIA the space in which the majority of tourists coming to The Philippines will be gaining their first dose of what this country has to offer.
NAIA holds a special place in Manilas colorful history. It is primarily known for being the location of one the most significant political assassinations in the countries history; the murder of Ninoy Aquino.
In recent times the airport was plagued with another scandal; which went on to garner the attention of international media. Individuals, most likely airport staff were planting bullets inside the luggage of unsuspecting passengers. The airport staff would then use this to extort money from passengers after being threatened with jail time for the ammunition in their luggage.
As time has gone on the airport has slowly begun to revitalise its reputation. Though, when you consider the advancements made at other airports in the region, it is easy to see that NAIA has some catching up to do.
Personally, I put a lot of weight on the significance of this airport in relation to the experiences of the growing number of visitors coming to the country. Although I recognise the airport quality is a relatively minor issue when it comes to the allocation of the nation’s resources. I still think first impressions of visitors do matter, especially when you factor in the potential of the situation.
The Philippines has some of the most beautiful attractions in the world. There are breathtaking mountainous landscapes along with world class, picturesque beaches infesting this country. The Philippines has the potential to be a tourist hot spot; it certainly has the assets to reach that position.
So with that in mind, I am left wondering why is NAIA, the tourism hub of the country left in such a sad state?
Individuals not boarding a flight are mostly left standing outside in a waiting area which is essentially a segment of the car park. There is another waiting area on the bottom level, though this is also outdated; as well as still being outside. So if you are going to be waiting for somebody, your only choice is to stand out in the heat.
From an aesthetic point of view, the exterior styling of the airport does have potential. It is just in need of some attention to bring it up to standard. The airport has the appearance of a concrete wasteland there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about the exterior of the airport, no landscaping, no artwork; it has a cold, hard almost industrial feeling to it.
The interior of the airport has recently had some much-needed renovations. When I first arrived at NAIA the interior look as if it had not been updated since the airport was built. The interior furnishings and design looked as if it had come from an entirely different era.
Now that NAIA has undergone renovations it has a much more respectable appearance. It now has a beautiful ceiling and lighting installation, modern furnishings and an upgraded luggage collection system. The interior has a much more fresh and clean feel to it as opposed to its previous state.
NAIA Domestic Vs. International Terminal
When it comes to the two departure areas, I don’t think it is a debate. When I travel domestically, I never have an issue besides the frequent flight delays. As I always arrive to my flights early, I never struggle to find seating at the gate. The departure area is also surrounded by vendors selling a variety of food, so I usually take the opportunity to grab something to eat.
The departure area is also surrounded by vendors selling a variety of food, so I usually take the chance to grab something to eat. If that’s not enough, then there is the option of an entire food court on the top level of the terminal. The food court primarily contains all the major food chains in the Philippines plus a few other smaller restaurants.
I am also a big drink fan; I love to sip on the different drinks from the coffee shops and read a book while I wait for my flight. As long as I have that available to me, I am happy.
The international departure area is where I have an issue. Usually, you will be waiting for 1 – 2 hours before your flight leaves. So again for me, I naturally gravitate to wanting something to eat to pass the time. The lack of options inside the departure is an issue for me.
You have the choice of either have Starbucks or some smaller general stores. The issue is that the food from the general stores is so bad that it seems like everybody flocks to the one Starbucks chain. This means it is always hectic, and getting a seat is always an issue. Even once you get a seat relaxing is not an option as you will always have other Starbucks customers trying to squeeze into the space near you as there are no other seats available.
I feel like NAIA has begun to walk in the right direction. But I feel as if it is only walking away from its horrible reputation. It still has a long way to go to reach the league of other airports in the region like Hong Kong and Japan.
Some basic moves can be made at NAIA which will bring the passengers experience to a whole new level. Doing things as simple as offering more seating in the busy departure areas; a few banks of seats in front of a TV playing basketball is not ideal. Offering the wider variety of dining options will also lift the passenger’s experience.
But the NAIA management can’t ignore all these years of appearing on lists of the worst airports in Asia. Hopefully, these moves to improve the airport will continue to gain momentum.
It ‘d be nice to see The Philippines step away from its underdog status and begin to offer world class facilities to those travelling the country.