I went with a friend to accompany her to the airport of Nimes yesterday & we got into a discussion on the different airports we have crossed so far. Of course we had so many things to say about NAIA, our own Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. It is not because I have seen how other airports operate that I can just criticize our very own, but that's just it, I have seen others that allowed me to make an observation, a comparison on how chaotic NAIA can be.
Flying back to Manila is easy. Marignan airport is a middle-sized international airport. It is very clean, organized, complete with shops for last minute shopping & necessities. Checking-in & boarding is no hassle at all. They even let us get away with a 5 kilo excess on our luggage. It's so organized that it's just like getting into your car. Unless you have a problem with some of your papers, or unfortunately a problem with your flight. The wait in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam for our connecting flight to Manila was a breeze.
Then after the long cross of the blue ocean, you arrive Manila airport. Still a little too far for international standards but it doesn't matter for now. The smell of home, the sun & the warm weather catches your attention. You are just too excited to find the person assigned to take you to your true home that you don't notice you passed immigration & customs already, and you are now under the letter where you're supposed to wait. NAIA made a lot of progress by enforcing discipline that made arriving less stressful. We didn't experience people who offer to carry, or actually push your cart for a small amount, the taxi drivers that will smother you as soon as you exit, and the sea of greeters that makes it impossible to find yours. It's quite pleasant now especially after a 14 hour flight. I'd still consider it an improvement to move this chaos just outside the airport's vicinity because it still is the same as soon as you leave the airport's protection & that's where the riot starts.
Arriving is a breeze but departure is disappointing, a lot of time wasted & just plain disorganized. We spent a lot of time waiting in line or running back & forth. We first went through the passport & security check which was no problem at all. Then we went straight to the check-in counter who told us to first weigh our luggage found in the middle, just after the security check. We didn't notice it & didn't know since they normally weigh your lugagge in check-in. We had an excess of 8 kilos equivalent to 150$ (culprit: 2-3 kilos of those beautiful ripe mangoes) & we spent maybe half an hour trying to lose the extra kilos. We were getting a little pissed when they still wouldn't give us the 4 kilo excess. Christmas was approaching & we thought maybe they were waiting for a "gift." Finally, the other woman let us go even without a gift. I admit that it was made to avoid lugagge like ours. Back to the check-in counter who again told me to pay I don't even remember what's it for, a processing fee, heck maybe a travel tax which I'm supposed to be exempted from, on the other side of the room by the entrance. Finally over checking-in, another queue for the airport tax, then another one for the hand carry x-ray & body search which was the longest since there was only one machine & inspector for all the passengers. When it was all finally over & headed to our gate, we were exhausted, nervous & a little late.
I heard that the Mactan International Airport in Cebu is far more better than NAIA & that Manila airport is considered as the worse airport in all of it's neighboring countries in SEA. An American military base transformed into an airport is a questionable architecture. The comfort rooms are near disgusting. Air ventilation like airconditioning is bad. It lacks appropriate signs. Waiting is boring since you have nothing else around. The system is still quite ineffective that causes too much queue. Payments should all be done in one place to avoid running back & forth, plainly having an effective sequence of checking-in & boarding. It needs more counters & at least 2 x-ray machines for all baggage check per flight. It just plainly needs more organization. It's not only to make your arrival & departure comfortable especially for long flights but it is an international airport, the first & last impression you'll have of a country.
I likewise heard that Terminal 2 is already better & Terminal 3 is really a progress that could redeem Terminal 1 although it is not yet open. And they should as soon as they can because they should just give up on Terminal 1 & truly give the people a transformed airport & service.
I don't even know why I was so afraid of flying. It is indispensable for me now. I am now more afraid of the immigration & customs, and terrorism. But I am still excited to see new airports where people come & go. The hellos & good byes and the thought of new places & people. The hub where people around the world gather for a moment.