Caught (up) in traffic

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Crowded NAIA Terminal 1 arrival area

May 2013


NAIA Terminal 1 remains as the main international terminal for Manila. This is where most international airlines are served. Terminal 2 is exclusively for Philippine Airlines while Cebu Pacific and All Nippon Airways are the only airlines with international flights via Terminal 3. And so it’s easy to see that Terminal 1 can get quite crowded especially as one international arrival comes after another during the peak hours of the airport. One A320 aircraft alone can carry about 150 passengers and wide bodied aircraft like the the A330’s and A340’s can carry more than 250 passengers each. Even larger B777’s and B747s carry more than 350 and 400 passengers, respectively. These are just too many for Terminal 1 to handle resulting in long queues at the immigration counters, crowded baggage claim areas and long queues again for customs. These passengers eventually converge along the arrival area driveway across from the well-wishers’ waiting area (i.e., a two story building) behind which is the open parking area of the airport.

IMG06074-20130510-2241When flights arrive one after another in short headways, the terminal becomes too congested from the immigration counters to baggage claim and the pick-up areas.

IMG06075-20130510-2312Well-wishers waiting for relatives or friends glance at the screen for information on arrivals while others look through the window to check out the people waiting along the driveway.

IMG06076-20130510-2312While others are seated, some people opt to stand at the windows, anticipating the arrival of relatives or friends. The second of the building that serves as the waiting area for well-wishers is air-conditioned but there open windows like the one shown in the photo. That window alone could cost a lot in terms of power consumption by the air-conditioning units.

The ground level is even more crowded and there’s always people wanting to cross over to the other side of the driveway to meet relatives as they arrive from the ramp. Airport security try their best to keep order but some people are quite insistent and in certain cases taunt or berate the guards for not letting them through. I think this behavior of people was quite unfair to the guards as the latter were only doing their jobs and its only right that they keep people from flooding the arrival driveway. It’s already too crowded and more people will only bring more mayhem if allowed to mix with the arriving passengers.

Terminal 1 was the subject of calls for renovations and an upgrade from what it is now, a bad first impression of the country. I remember a group of architects and designers came up with a plan to renovate Terminal 1 including improving the layout of the terminal and parking facilities. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) was supposedly tasked to follow through with this project but ended up offending people by bidding the project out. Another design firm was supposed to have won the bid but until now, there has been no activity related to this long-delayed major improvement. Perhaps there was hesitation as they agency struggles to decide whether NAIA should continue to serve as the main international gateway to the country? Well, it is certainly still the main gateway and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future as the prospects for Clark and other proposals remain hanging in the air. We should live with this reality and carry on what needs to be done to improve Terminal 1, and quickly!

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