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Good news: JFK dislodges Naia as ‘worst airport’

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 02:51 AM January 18, 2012

The race to the bottom just got tougher for the perennial contender, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

The country’s primary gateway, which in October last year was adjudged by a travel website as the world’s worst, is now just the second worst, according to a more recent review posted on the Internet.

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Naia just lags behind New York’s JFK Airport, said travel guide publisher Frommer’s (frommers.com).

“Last May, the ceiling at Manila airport’s Terminal 1 caved in, injuring two people. That’s part of why SleepingInAirports rated it the world’s worst terminal last year,” Frommer’s said in an article titled, “Terminal Illness.”

It also cited earlier complaints about Naia Terminal 1 for purportedly being a place where theft and bribery remained rampant.

Positive effect

Frommer’s also cited an Agence France-Presse report noting that “the terminal has been a frequent target of criticism with travelers and the business community, complaining it is congested, run-down and filthy, with toilets that do not work.”

Frommer’s said its rankings were based on an airport’s level of cleanliness, services, on-time departures, and ease of navigation within the complex as well as to and from the city center.

“Most airports are awful. Some are lovely… (S)ome airports deserve special condemnation, though. In some cases, they deserve to be literally condemned,” said the article’s author, Sascha Segan.

Segan noted, however, that “the negative press attention seems to have had some effect” in the case of Naia Terminal 1.

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“This November the Philippine government said it would renovate the terminal starting in January. It looks like changes can’t come too soon,” he said.

Same response

Sought for comment Tuesday, Naia Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta dismissed the issues raised on the Frommer’s website as “old and rehashed.”

Curiously, he made exactly the same remark last year in reaction to the unflattering review given by SleepingInAirports.

“We’ve already done several improvements in the past. But we will definitely see a new Naia Terminal 1 by the end of the year,” Basanta said, stressing that the long-awaited rehabilitation of the 30-year-old airport actually began on Monday.

The government has rolled out a program for the upgrade and structural rehabilitation of the terminal to the tune of P1.16 billion.

Basanta said the plan would cover “retrofitting works, aesthetic improvement and construction of rapid exit taxiway.”

Jose Angel Honrado, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), announced that the retrofitting program would start with the pullout of the arrival lobby escalator that leads to the departure level, in order to create more space for passenger movement.

Honrado said there were also plans to move the banks and duty-free shops from the arrival lobby and customs area, also to enlarge space for arriving passengers.

A portion of the rehabilitation budget would go to the repair of the toilets, while more immigration counters and a couple of “walk-a-lators” would be installed in the arrival area, he said.

Also part of the long-term plan is to move some of the airlines currently using Terminal 1 to the newer Terminal 3, according to Honrado.

Underutilized

“Naia 1 was originally designed for 4.5 million passengers per year, but now it services around 7.3 million passengers,”  he said. “On the other hand, Terminal 3, which has a capacity of 13 million international passengers, is under(utilized).”

Honrado said the MIAA would also procure new pieces of security equipment.

Among them would be “shoe scanners, so passengers need not remove their shoes for inspection; state-of-the-art scanning and X-ray machines to shorten their time at the initial security check at the entrance; and more closed circuit television cameras to be installed all over the airport, including the parking lots and perimeter fence,” he said.

Apart from the physical improvements, Basanta maintained that airport officials and employees were doing their best so that passengers would have a “more fun” experience at the country’s premier airport.

“We do this by showcasing our Filipino warmth and hospitality, giving service with a smile and with care, and providing fast service in key processing areas. Also by ensuring that their baggage are secured and making sure that our air-conditioning system, public phones, and comfort rooms are working, among other things,” he said.

‘MC Escher design’

According to frommers.com, JFK Airport Terminal 3 was the worst airport on its list for having “endless immigration lines in a dank basement, an utter lack of food and shopping options, three crowded and confusing entry points, and hallways that could have been designed by MC Escher for vomiting international travelers out onto an underground sidewalk with no cabs available.”

Escher was a 19th century Dutch graphic artist famous for creating puzzling, if not impossible, structures and perspectives.

Completing its “worst” list on frommers.com were Newark Airport’s Terminal B,  US Airways Terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal B/C, Jordan’s Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Chicago Midway Airport, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3 and Beauvais Airport, and Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Naia Terminal 1 is the only Asian airport on the list.

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TAGS: Air transport, aviation, JFK Airport, NAIA
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