NAIA has to be the worst airport I’ve ever been in and I’ll tell you why.
The physical appearance of the airport itself is a joke. From my experience, the airport is the first impression a traveler gets of the place he’s going, and if Manila wants to promote the image of a modernizing, world-class city, it’s doing a poor job of it. The paint on and in the building is faded and stained. The carpets are worn, and in some places the flooring is actually concrete slabs. My first impression was that it appeared to be a cross between a Sam’s Club and a well used, worn out car insurance office. The whole place seemed to be dirty too, to varying degrees. I was definitely not impressed.
The airport is very crowded. The airport itself is small, considering that it’s an international airport and the hub of air travel in the Philippines. This over-crowding is apparent as soon as you approach the building. The taxi drop off area is a mess of traffic and pedestrians that seems much more dangerous than it should be. The exterior standing area of the airport has a small sidewalk that is typically packed with waiting travelers. In addition there was a mob of Filipinos waiting for processing at the Overseas Foreign Worker office adjacent to the front entrance. This crowd of people seemed to spill out onto the street more often than not and consumed the majority of the waiting area. That brings me to another point. There is only ONE entrance! ONE door! All passengers are required to pass through a metal detector and have their baggage scanned at this entry point. That in itself is an admirable effort to keep the airport safe, but why is there only one? Why not two or three? Wouldn’t that make more sense, considering the amount of traffic the airport receives? Wouldn’t that improve travel time and customer satisfaction?
The employees in this airport are incompetent. Outside the airport there is an employee walking around demanding that people move closer to the entrance, even though there is nowhere to move to, since the area is packed full. It’s as if he doens’t bother to look or think about it before asking people to move. At the scanner by the door there is no form of baggage control. One of my wife’s bags was stolen from the scanner area before she was even able to make it through the metal detector. In Singapore, at Changi International, baggage is put in a numbered tray and you’re given a numbered placard to turn in for your baggage after being scanned. This ensures that the correct person gets the correct baggage. No such luck or system at NAIA. My wife’s stolen bag led us to the discovery of further incompetence on the part of airport staff. We proceeded to the information desk and asked if anyone had turned in a backpack. We didn’t expect that anyone would of course, but they made an announcement over the intercom. We didn’t have time to wait around so my wife asked if she could have the phone number for the information desk so she could call back at a later time to see if the bag had turned up. The airport personnel at the information desk DID NOT KNOW THE NUMBER FOR THEIR OWN DESK! How can someone who works at an information desk not even know their own phone number? It seems ironic, and blatantly stupid. It also displays a lack of training and customer care. I suppose the problem with that is that for most travelers there isn’t really a choice when it comes to using that airport. That shouldn’t create an atmosphere where employees don’t care about the customers though. It’s a poor reflection of the airport, the city and the country.
There is a terminal usage fee that must be paid prior to entering the departure gate areas. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t fees of that sort normally included in the price of a plane ticket? Aren’t the airlines that utilize NAIA paying fees already to do business at that terminal? Why is there an additional fee travelers are required to pay prior to being able to leave the country? I’ve never seen anything like this at another airport. I got the impression that it was just another way for NAIA to dig into people’s wallets. Also, where are these extra fees going? If it’s a terminal usage fee, shouldn’t the fees collected be used to improve the terminal? Then why does it look like crap? The terminal usage fee is 18 USD and while that may not seem like a lot to some travelers, I feel that it’s an unnecessary waste of my hard earned cash.
If I had a choice, I wouldn’t use NAIA again. Unfortunately, there aren’t multiple terminals to choose from, which is the case in most areas. My wife submitted a complaint letter to the airport but never heard back from them. I wasn’t really surprised. It would be nice if those in charge of NAIA would take an active interest in the quality of their facilities and the quality of customer service their employees are providing.
Oh, and one other thing to note… NAIA doesn’t even have its own homepage. In this day and age that’s surprising and sad. The hyperlink at the top sends you to the NAIA wiki page.