Perhaps as an attempt by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to start off the 2013 tourism campaign on the right note, Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. reportedly claimed that it takes passengers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) – dig this – only 25 minutes to complete the airport process-from disembarkation to clearing immigration and customs to getting a cab or meeting the welcome wagon outside the airport. This claim is being made amid the NAIA being branded as one of the world’s worst airports for 2011 and 2012.
“The advantage of NAIA is that in about three to four minutes, from the time the plane touches down, it is already at the bridge or tube … taxi time is shorter at Naia compared with bigger international airports abroad,” Bengzon told reporters before Christmas.
“You try to check your watch when you travel to a large airport. Taxiing after landing really takes time and sometimes you have to go through a bus gate so you will still have to be shuttled to the terminal,” he said.
Furthermore, according to the article, that “advantage”, if effectively marketed, could supposedly attract more tourists to the Philippines.
It remains to be seen if this claim is actually an advantage in the first place.
So what if it supposedly takes only 25 minutes? And where exactly did they get the figure of 25 minutes from? Did they conduct a time study of that airport process, or did they just throw a random figure in minutes and hoped people would be awed?
One can cast doubt on this “advantage” being claimed by the DOT in one simple phrase: Quantity does not necessarily mean quality.
Sure, you can have passengers out in 25 minutes, but that time period can seem such an eternity if going through an aging, derelict, and poorly maintained excuse for a building that the Philippine government and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) call an airport. If you have substandard bathrooms, unfriendly and corrupt staff, insufficient seating, and rampant bribery scams going on, the 25 minutes can be the worst period in the traveler’s journey. What are the MIAA, the NAIA officials, and the DOT doing to address these real and tangible concerns? By the way, these are the complaints that commentators on the website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports” actually mentioned.
Obviously, delays and queues are bound to happen in many places in the arrival process. From taxiing of the aircraft to the queues of getting through immigration and customs, and especially waiting for one’s baggage to arrive, these are all possible delay spots. What is more important than forcing the entire process to stick to a particular time is to make sure that the each step in the process flows smoothly and comfortably for the arriving passengers in the first place. The improvement in processing times will come naturally once the process is smoothed out.
As a side note, the article also mentions that MIAA officials have yet to separate arrival figures of tourists from returning overseas Filipinos. So why exactly are they doing that? It doesn’t matter to me whether the arrival is a foreign tourist or a returning overseas Filipino; the arrival process should be made smoother and better for all.
It doesn’t take Assistant Secretary Bengzon 25 minutes to completely miss the point, does it?
Perhaps, as Bengzon claimed, this is a little-known “advantage”, but that may be so simply because it is not even an advantage at all. If Bengzon and other like-minded officials think they can sweep all the dirt of the NAIA under the rug by claiming a fast “passing-through time” then they better think again. The commentators on that very same article seem to think so, too.
Why did I emphasize that quantity and quality are not the same? Let’s use, as an example, one of the best airports in the world, Singapore’s Changi Airport, one which I’ve been to a few times. It is a marvel in design, and the passenger going through this airport has multitudes of options to go through while waiting for their ride into the city. They have comfortable seats, lounges, and the airport terminal is generally clean and bright, maaliwalas, as we would say in the Filipino language. If one wants to talk about the airport process, which Bengzon mentioned, what matters more than a time standard is the smoothness of the flow of the process, and Changi Airport’s design is a great example of it.
I’ve limited the discussion here to the process of going through the airport. Getting a taxi, if you don’t have a car, and getting around the city are entirely separate experiences. They could be horror stories, depending if the taxi operator tries to scam you for an exorbitant fixed rate, or if he purposefully takes the longer route because you don’t know any better, or if your living accommodations are a dump, etc. Manila was a dump, so wrote a blogger back in 2011. Unfortunately, it still is.
The DOT shoots itself in the foot again. The inanity and stupidity of the Department of Tourism – more fun in the Philippines, indeed.
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