Redundant, inefficient, cumbersome, useless- why our airport procedures don’t

Redundant, inefficient, cumbersome, useless- why our airport procedures don’t

By Antonio A. Oposa and Anna R. Oposa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
DateFirst Posted 22:05:00 03/13/2011




It is not the processes that need strengthening, rather the management of our civil aviation systems
This letter, edited for lack of space, was sent by the authors to Jose Angel A. Honrado, General Manager, Manila International Airport Authority. Authors’ e-mails—

WE ARE staunch advocates of local tourism. We strongly believe responsible eco-tourism is a good driver of sustainable economic development. If there is anything we Filipinos can be proud of, it is the unparalleled physical beauty of our country, and the inner beauty of our people.

But those of us who travel extensively know how cumbersome, inefficient and opportunistic our travel systems are, particularly our airports and seaports.

Take the case of the gateways of the country: our airports. There has been a marked improvement in the physical facilities of our airports, for which we congratulate those responsible for them. However, there is so much that needs to be done to upgrade our services and make our airports truly world-class.

We invite your attention to the tedious process of checking in and out of our airports—the first and last stop of all local and international travelers. The objective of a good airport is to make travel procedures as seamless and efficient as possible. Instead, ours have become perfect examples of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and what airport systems should NOT be.

‘Checkpoint mentality’

Indeed, it is also an example of the “checkpoint mentality” of our government.


1. There are security guards who pretend to conduct a cursory check on the entering cars. They wave their flashlights in the direction of the glove compartment and pretend to look inside the trunk. In reality, they only waste the time of the passenger and create a garrison mentality.

2. In the entry doors of the airport, there is another guard who checks the ticket and ID. At this point begins unnecessary waiting lines.

3. There is an X-ray at the main door. While there are often a number of X-ray machines, only one or two are open, thus creating another extended queue and further delay.

4. At the Naia-3, yet another guard checks the ticket and ID before the check-in counter.

5. After checking in, we proceed to another line to pay an exorbitant amount of P200 as “terminal fee.”

In all our travels around the world, we notice that only the Philippine airports collect a terminal fee. If we are so impoverished and must collect this terminal fee, can we not incorporate it in the price of the ticket? This would considerably ease the flow and movement of passengers at our airports. Institutions such as airline companies and the Naia administration office are better placed to do the collection and remittances of large amounts of funds.

But that is not all. After paying this senseless terminal fee, we proceed to line up again for another officer, called the Inspector Verifier, who will cut off the stub from the receipt of the terminal fee. This is especially true at Naia-3 and Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

6. Then, after this, there is another X-ray machine. Compared to other airports in the world, ours is the only X-ray machine that checks hand-carried baggage. Even in security-conscious US, there is only one X-ray check, and that is right before the pre-departure area.

7. Then the final check right before boarding. This can be reduced to only three stages: check-in, X-ray and body check before entering the pre-departure area, and then at final boarding. This is the standard used by most airports.

Additional checkpoints

However, the process for international travel at the Naia and PAL Centennial Airports is even worse because of the additional checkpoints:

1. Checking of boarding pass before entry into immigration area;

2. Payment of the exorbitant terminal fee of P750, or something like $13.45, as if people walk around with that exact change in their pockets. Worse, one cannot even pay with a credit card;

3. Immigration;

4. Checking of boarding passes before being allowed to enter the pre-departure gate;

5. Another check of baggage before boarding.

At the international arrival area, even if we have nothing to declare, we are made to fill up a form, which is checked by a customs officer. Part of the stub is then taken by another customs officer.

Also, ours is the only airport that still checks on the bag tags—courtesy of more security guards at the exit door.

Most of these procedures are not only cumbersome and downright stupid, they also create an impression that we are just putting hoops to make it difficult for tourists. We only create meaningless jobs for unemployed protégés of politicians or bureaucrats who have nothing better to do. This is a waste of people’s hard-earned money.

We request that your good office take the initiative to review and streamline this process. These cumbersome and repetitious procedures have not made our airport and air travel any more secure. Notwithstanding all these, our airports have been downgraded for their lack of security.

Disturbing news

It is not the processes that need strengthening, rather the management of our civil aviation systems. In the news recently was a disturbing piece of information: There was damage in some aviation equipment, and the replacement part had to be “cannibalized” or removed from existing, likewise damaged aviation equipment.

One must ask: Where is all the money collected from the terminal fees going? Do they go to paying the security guards and personnel placed in our airports to make our lives and travel difficult?

In almost all of the airports of the world, there is no “terminal fee” collected. If there is, it is usually incorporated in the ticket.

In this respect, may we respectfully request for a financial report from your good office as to the uses of the terminal fee collected from passengers in the last five years. Despite all the monies received, as of January 2011, none of the three airports in Manila had free and consistent wireless Internet access.

The pre-departure area at Naia -1 did not even have working electrical outlets. The restrooms are still small and badly maintained. The Mactan-Cebu Airport, meanwhile, recently installed sensor-type flushing mechanisms in their water closets, a water-wasteful technology. But when checked last Jan. 22, none of them worked!

We also do not have seats allocated for the handicapped in pre-departure areas. In other international airports, there are seats near the gates for the handicapped.


While other airports around the world try to institutionalize seamless airport procedures, we are overacting to try to create a perception of security. This is not a mark of our ability to put in place effective security measures. Rather, it is a mark of idiotic redundancy, utter inefficiency, and useless red tape.

We end up making ourselves look ridiculous. It creates the impression that we live in a garrison state, paranoid to the nth degree, and/or are promoting unnecessary red tape right in the gateways.

It is a poor reflection on our people. It is also an example of a very Third World mentality—the very impression we are trying to change as a country and as a people.

Our airport officials know how utterly ridiculous these procedures are, but refuse to improve them for reasons known only to them.

There are so many other things we need to improve to make our country travel-friendly, among them having clean toilets, honest cab drivers and traffic decongestion. But if there is one area we can work on right away to make travel to and within the Philippines easy, convenient, passenger-visitor-friendly and seamless, it is our airports—the very face of our beautiful and beloved country.

Copyright 2011 Philippine Daily Inquirer.


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