EDITORIAL - Still behind in Asia
(The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2015 - 10:00am

After topping the dishonor roll for three years, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is finally showing some improvement in its global ranking. In the latest annual survey conducted by the popular travel website The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, the NAIA is no longer included among the 10 worst airports in the world.

The full operation of the NAIA Terminal 3, with several foreign carriers transferring there from Terminal 1, helped improve the rating. So did ongoing renovations in the old NAIA 1, where sleeping rooms have been opened for a fee on the upper floors.

As in other assessments, however, the country’s rating must be compared with those of its neighbors. The NAIA is still ranked the eighth worst in Asia, where several of the world’s best airports are located. Singapore’s Changi edged out South Korea’s Seoul Incheon as the world’s best, followed by airports in Tokyo, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The survey noted poor customer service, sub-par food selection, crowded seating areas and the lack of restrooms and leaking ceilings at NAIA 1 and collapsing floors at Terminal 2.

The government must also deal better with airport congestion, which continues to delay flights and adds to the costs of airline operators. Many flights have been made to sit up to two hours on takeoff mode on the tarmac, or forced to hover for more than an hour before landing at the NAIA because of the congestion. Airport managers keep denying that congestion is the problem, but airline personnel say otherwise. With too many flights suffering the same problem, the airline version is more plausible.

Among the reasons for the congestion is the lack of night operation capability in most of the nation’s airports outside Metro Manila. The acquisition of the needed technology became bogged down in endless studies at the Department of Transportation and Communications that have paralyzed several projects under the Aquino administration and scared away investors.

Apart from the lack of air traffic control and runway signaling equipment for nighttime operations, many secondary airports need an urgent upgrade in providing basic services to passengers. Toilets in several of these gateways are even more inadequate than at the NAIA.

Airports stimulate tourism and investments. Even top tourist destinations, however, suffer from poor airport facilities. The improvement of the NAIA in the travelers’ survey should inspire a sustained upgrading effort. Transport officials, however, must look beyond Metro Manila. Many other airports are in dire need of improvement.

ACIRC AIRPORTS AQUINO CHANGI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS HONG KONG AND MALAYSIA METRO MANILA NAIA NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT SEOUL INCHEON SOUTH KOREA
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