World-class airport, third-world service
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - January 5, 2020 - 12:00am

One of the sources of pride I feel every time I go back home is the sight of a world-class airport that we have in Cebu. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport ranks as one of the top 10 most architecturally pleasing of all the air terminals I have ever been. The airport serves as the foretaste of what Cebuano hospitality feels like for the million tourists and balikbayans who pass through its welcoming arches each year.

However grandiose the aesthetics are, what makes the facility even more memorable is the quality of the travelers’ experience. Airports are not particularly known to be a place of pleasure - crowded and cramped gates, delayed times, bad food, lost luggage, long security lines, and a host of other less-desirable concerns. Our own airport is not immune to these complaints. And speaking of lines, this is where I received a lot of complaints from fellow travelers, friends, and relatives. I believe them as I also experienced these myself.

I do not know if it is attributable to lack of personnel or an inefficient scheduling system, but why is it that there are not enough immigration officers stationed at the arriving terminal especially during the peak evening or night arrivals? When more than one international flight arrives within a few minutes from each other, usually there are only two or three officers who are there to receive the multitude of passengers. When you come from halfway around the world, enduring the 28-hour transpacific flight, the least you want to do is to wait for more than an hour to have your passport stamped. Why can't the management install pre-screening kiosks where you can scan your passport and forms and answer preliminary customs questions? Or why not increase the number of customs or immigration officers during such peak times? Perhaps there must be some more creative systems to be instituted such as a frequent traveler program where one, by virtue of his being a regular visitor or traveler to Cebu, has already been pre-checked and cleared. Or what about more accessible wi-fi service so that families and relatives outside would not be anxious wondering whatever happened to the passenger they are waiting for?

If we can afford to upgrade our physical structures, there is no excuse that we cannot do the same when it comes to improving the travelers' experience. We may have an airport that is at par with first-world countries, we cannot and should not be content that the quality of service and passenger experience still remains like that of a third-world country.

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