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Modern airports in the Philippines: The Bacolod-Silay Airport

November 2011
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After writing a lot about highways and streets and railways (particularly on the PNR, its history and a few what if’s) I think its high time that I also write something about other modes of transport. Much has been abuzz about the state of our main international airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Terminal 1 is already too crowded and with toilets already quite notorious for their being dirty and stinky. Terminal 2, despite being used only by one airline – Philippine Airlines, is also becoming too crowded already being unable to handle both domestic and international flights during the peak periods. It is also being dragged into the mess that PAL is currently wading through. Terminal 3 is predominantly being used by Cebu Pacific, already the country’s largest airline despite being a budget outfit. It is supposed to handle international flights for NAIA and yet because of the still unresolved issues surrounding its construction, most international flights are still serviced by Terminal 1. Perhaps the largest and the most friendly for passengers and well-wishers, it has a serious parking problem (covered parking anyone?) and many of its features are not operational (e.g., moving walkways, air bridges, baggage handling, etc.).

But rather than feature the older, less attractive airports for my first post on these facilities, I will start with what we should have more of. There are already several airports that have been constructed/ transferred and/or upgraded in the past few years around the country that are worth mentioning. Among these is the New Bacolod-Silay Airport that is located in Silay City, north-northeast of Bacolod City. The following photos were taken by colleagues at the Institute of Civil Engineering and the National Center for Transportation Studies of UP Diliman back in 2008 when the airport just began operations. It is a very significant upgrade from the old Bacolod Airport that was already too crowded and could not handle both passengers and aircraft projected for Bacolod and Negros Occidental.

The airport terminal as viewed from the parking area – parking is spacious and sufficient for many years to come given the current and projected passenger demand. The airport is the second (after Iloilo) “airport of international standard” completed during the previous dispensation.

Pre-departure area – provides a spacious area for passengers checking-in for their flights. The high ceiling definitely helps in providing a feeling of space.

Another view of the airline check-in area – Bacolod is served by PAL, Ceb Pac, Air Philippines and Zest Air. Passenger demand requires frequent trips that allow for flexible scheduling of travel.

Escalator to the departure lounge – departing passengers are handled on the ground floor but have to transfer to the upper floor for the departure area. They board the plane through the air bridges that provide the connection between the terminal and the planes. Arriving passengers also use the air bridges but descend to the ground level for departure procedures including baggage claims.

The departure lounge at the airport is spacious and clean. The comfort rooms, my colleagues say from more recent trips, are still sparkling clean and well-maintained.

Concessionaires include this coffee shop for passengers wanting a cup of their preferred beverages or perhaps a serving or slice of a cake to satisfy the proverbial sweet tooth.

Another concessionaire in the airport gives passengers an alternative to other shops offering snacks or full meals. The prices, I am told, are pretty reasonable considering they operate in the airport. Often, items sold in airports are criticized for being expensive (presyong turista), something that needs to be addressed, too, in the interest of travelers.

Pasalubong center at the airport – Filipinos and travelers from other countries like to buy gifts or souvenirs to take home with them to give family and friends a taste of what they experienced in their trips. In Japan, this is called omiyage and is usually something that one can buy only from the place that you went to. There are many such items all around the country and for Bacolod/Negros Occidental, these include piaya, barquillos and napoleones.

Air bridge – provides access to and from the terminal building to the plane on the tarmac. This is level with the aircraft’s doors and eliminates the need for ladders often employed in other airports (usually domestic).

View from the departing plane – this is perhaps what the traveler will see first when his/her plane taxis towards to the terminal. It will also be what one would see as the plane taxis away to prepare for departure.

They say first impressions last and from the looks of the airport once you arrive in a certain place, you can already make some conclusions as to what the place might be in general terms. My colleagues are very impressed with Bacolod and its airport makes a statement to this effect. It is a very nice place to visit. It is clean and modern. Perhaps such simple observations or perceptions are what we should strive for in the case of NAIA’s terminals. It doesn’t really require so much to impress people. And clean toilets, and honest, efficient and reliable staff probably doesn’t require billions of pesos to realize.


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