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Work trips abroad

We are traveling again abroad for work. Work-related travel was mostly limited to road trips and local travel (e.g., to Zamboanga) in the past 2+ years. We used to average at least 2 foreign trips per year with my wife usually raising that average due to the nature of her work that used to make her travel to the US at least twice a year.

I got this bear in Arnhem, The Netherlands. He’s supposed to be an Air Force aviator, symbolizing one of those who braved the skies to bomb enemy positions or deliver paratroopers during Operation Market Garden as depicted in the movie “A Bridge Too Far.”

Safest airlines in 2022/2023?

One magazine published an article recently about the safest airlines in the world. This is very relevant as people have returned to traveling during this period despite the pandemic and the new strains coming out. It is useful especially for people who are traveling overseas since airline choices might be very limited for domestic routes. Here is the article:

Puckett, J. (January 5, 2023) “This is the safest airline in the world,” Condé Nast Traveler, https://www.cntraveler.com/story/the-safest-airlines-in-the-world?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_010623_2&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight_Afternoon [Last accessed: 1/7/2023]

To quote from the article, the basis for the ranking is as follows:

“The site’s staff analyzes each airline’s records for crashes over the last five years, serious incidents over two years, audits from aviation’s governing bodies and associations; fleet age, expert analysis of pilot training, and COVID protocols. In addition to these criteria, each airline that makes the list is also at the top of the industry in terms of safety innovations and have added cutting-edge aircraft to their fleets, like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787…”

There are not so many Asian airlines in the list especially if you don’t include the Middle Eastern airlines. Only Singapore Airlines, EVA Air and Cathay Pacific are in the list. I was expecting at least one Japanese airline and perhaps Thai Airways to be in the list. I was not surprised Philippine Airlines was not on the list considering the criteria.

There’s a separate list for low-cost carriers in the article and Air Asia is one though there are actually several Air Asia companies operating out of Southeast Asian countries. It would be nice to see how Air Asia Philippines compares with the mother company based in Malaysia. Cebu Pacific is categorized under LCC’s but with so many of these companies around the world, it won’t be a surprise they didn’t rank among the Top 20 either.

Departure via Mactan Cebu International Airport Terminal 2 – Part 1

The MCIA has two terminals with the newer Terminal 2 being lauded as one of the best designed terminals in the country. It has been recognized internationally, too. And this is mainly due to the architecture of the new terminal.

Approach ramp to the departure level of MCIA Terminal 2

Departure level driveway – the area looks spacious but you wonder how it is during the peak season.

The view upon alighting from the vehicle that took us to the airport – note the advisory stating Cebu Pacific departures are via the old Terminal 1.

The walkway leading to the terminal building is very spacious.

Passengers may use the baggage trolley for their convenience in hauling their luggage.

There are seats for travelers and their well-wishers.

One of the kiosks along the corridor leading to the terminal building

The view from the walkway shows the Waterfront Hotel with its tiled roofs and the older MCIA Terminal 1 building (at right in the photo).

A local coffee shop operates out of one of the outdoor kiosks. These kiosks serve both travelers and well-wishers.

Inside, a popular souvenir shop welcomes travelers.

Schedule of departures are shown on one of the screens inside the terminal building.

Info booths of some of the airlines using Terminal 2

The Terminal 2 building offers very impressive architectural details.

There were long lines not because the airport is crowded but because there were few check-in counters open. Even those who have checked-in online and were to drop-off their bags were not spared the queues.

Stained glass windows featuring what appears to be a giant parol (Christmas lantern).

A view of the other check-in counters at the spacious MCIA Terminal 2

I took this photo of the ceiling to show the incorporation of natural lighting elements that allow for less power consumption for lighting particularly during daytime. This is one of the eco-friendly features of the building.

Another view of the long queues for PAL after we finished checking-in.

Airline service and information counters at the terminal – these are for Air Busan and Korean Air. An Air Busan plane figured in a crash recently when it overshot the runway upon landing at the MCIA in bad weather.

Another view of the ceiling and roof

Guidance for passengers are posted at the check-in counters. These include info on items that are not allowed in the check in bags, what are prohibited and will be seized at the airport, and what are allowed only in check in bags. The scale readout is working and can be seen on the counter. Typical luggage limit for domestic passengers range from 20 to 25kg depending on the airline. 

 

Part 2 is coming soon!

What are closed and what are open at NAIA Terminal 3 – international wing

I was able to take a few photos around the pre-departure area of NAIA Terminal 3 before our flight got cancelled. The shops, restaurants and cafes are mostly open including the Duty Free Philippines shop, Bo’s Coffee, and a variety of souvenir shops and eateries in the area. In fact, you can see from the couple of photos I am sharing that practically the whole length of the international wing has a shop or restaurant/eatery on one side. The other side would be the boarding gates and seats for departing passengers.

The travel certainly won’t have an excuse for getting hungry as I guess there will be something for everyone whether you want a drink, a snack, a light meal or a heavy one. The souvenir shops are also a mix of the usual items like delicacies, local crafts, shirts, keychains, ref magnets and the like. If you want something more fancy for souvenirs, there is a Narda’s store here. There are a couple of WHSmith stores for those looking for something to read or even some quick souvenir shopping.

Arrival at Mactan Cebu International Airport

It’s the Undas holidays when people typically travel to their hometowns. In the past, this has been an exodus for the big cities like Metro Manila where most people actually originated from other provinces. It is a common sight for the bus terminals, airports and seaports to be crowded this time of year and prior to November 1 as people travel home. This year is probably the most crowded in many years considering the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted travel the last 2+ years.

This is actually a late post on our travel back in July 2022. It is still relevant as I feature here Cebu’s main gateway – the Mactan Cebu International Airport. We were back in Cebu after almost 3 years and looked forward to a nice vacation. That starts with a pleasant arrival at MCIA that set the tone for a nice break from our work and an adventure for our daughter before school opened (they started in August).

Arriving passengers are greeted by a spacious baggage claim area.

It’s good that the airport did not feel compelled to have every space occupied by something. It makes the passengers feel and appreciate the space, which I thought was a plus for very busy airports like MCIA.

The terminal also has well-maintained tiolets, which is another feature that I think is non-negotiable for such facilities. The toilets are a major part of the first impression of a city/destination for travelers.

Communication companies greet travelers with promos. Globe and Smart offer simcards for visitors. I think these are more for the foreigners or balikbayans who probably need a local number and simcard so they don’t max out their phone accounts while traveling in the country.

People gather around the carousel to claim their baggage. The info board is working and there are signs reminding passengers to carefully identify and claim their baggage.

Many bags look similar and since no one checks the tags/stickers upon exit of the terminal, people should take care in picking up the wrong luggage. It can be an inconvenience to both parties.

This corridor leads to the airline transfer desks.

There’s a preview of one of the restaurants outside baggage claim area of the arrival level of the airport.

Arriving passengers are greeted with a spacious lobby that has two levels of shopping and dining areas.

There are two levels of shops and restaurants. Duty Free Philippines has a branch here for those who have the duty free privileges.

There are seats for travelers and well-wishers. 

The corridors are lines with shops, restaurants and food stalls.

Some shops offer the popular lechon (roasted pig) and other local favorites. [Pardon for the blurry photo.]

The airport transport services are organized and have their own ‘formal’ counters. This is unlike the old times when these had informal stalls outside the airport. You can now more confidently book your car or van or inquire about tourist services at one of these counters.

I no longer took photos of the transport terminal at MCIA. I already posted photos on that in previous articles. It is the same and still efficient, convenient and comfortable to travelers. It is definitely better than NAIA’s and other airports in the country in terms of design.

Another look at the Zamboanga Airport – arrival

We traveled to Zamboanga earlier last month and it was our first trip to the city since the first lockdowns in 2020. We were supposed to travel in March 2020 to conduct data collection for a full week but then there was the nationwide lockdown implemented to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. If we were already there when the lockdowns were implemented, we could have been stranded at our hotel and perhaps spent a few weeks to perhaps a month before we could return to Manila.

We disembarked from the plan using the more sophisticated and senior citizen- and PWD-friendly ramps.

It took longer to get down both in terms of distance and disembarking time.

Other stairs and ramps are shown in the background. I recall only Cebu Pacific had these for their aircraft.

Our first look at the renovated Zamboanga International Airport (Aeropuerto International de Zamboanga in the local language – Chavacano) since February 2020. At the time the roof was already falling apart at different locations.

A look back at the ramp

Passengers walk towards the arrival area of the airport

The baggage claim area is practically the same as in 2020. The only notables are the signs encouraging physical distancing as well as the stickers on the floor that designated where passengers were to position themselves.

As you one can see, people no longer really observe social distancing but all are wearing face masks.

A closer and clearer look at the sign and the floor sticker asking people to practice social distancing

The main driveway of the airport remains closed to general traffic. This is used only for special occasions and VIPs.

A look back to the terminal’s arrival area as we walked to meet up with the driver of our service vehicle while in the city.

Photos from the departure/return leg of our trip in the next post.

Returning to Mactan, Cebu

This weekend we are in Mactan to take a much needed break after a busy 2 weeks. I will write soon about the travel between Manila and Cebu including the conditions at the airports. For now, here’s a few photos upon deplaning from the aircraft.

A bus waited for us as we disembarked from the Airbus A321
Other passengers wait for the next bus

I look forward to the beach and a few side trips. Our plans for the weekend are quite flexible so its uncertain what places we get to visit or perhaps stay put at the resort where we are staying. I do want to see the completed bridge connecting Cordova with Cebu City (Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway or CCLEX).

More on the trip to Cebu in future posts.

What’re closed and what’re open – shops and restaurants at NAIA Terminal 3

I promised to post more photos about NAIA Terminal 3 yesterday. Prior to entering the pre-departure area, we decided to have our breakfast at the 3rd level of the terminal where most of the stores and restaurants are located. Prior to the pandemic, we ate at the area shared by Chowking, Tapa King and Army Navy Burgers. We also wanted to see which stores and restaurants were open as most of us were traveling via Terminal 3 for the first time since February 2020 (almost 2.5 years ago). Here are photos taken yesterday at the 3rd level. The scenes remind me of how friends described Haneda, Narita and Hong Kong, which also have a lot of shops, stores and restaurants still closed.

The Victoria’s Secret shop is open. So is the Bath & Body Works store across from it.

Some of the

Many of the small stores have closed. One wonders if these will eventually reopen or they will just be replaced by other stores once things get back to ‘normal’.

These used to be stores selling sports and outdoor wear including an Adidas store and a swimwear shop

What used to be a WHSmith convenience store is now boarded up. I assume there are still some items inside unlike the other closed stores where only the shelves remain.

McDonald’s is open and attracts a lot of people looking for that familiar meal.

Some stores selling chocolates and donuts are open. I saw that there are two other Krispy Kreme stores at the pre-departure area of the terminal. One is just after the final security check and the other is at the ground level near Gates 132 and 133.

Max’s is closed. Hopefully, it will reopen once the demand returns.

Chowking and Tapa King are closed. That means your options for no frills, inexpensive meals (particularly all-day breakfasts) are limited at the terminal.

Chinese restaurant Mongkok is also closed.

Army Navy is also closed at this area. They are open at the ground floor pre-departure area.

Even the kiosks are closed.

Ka Tunying’s Cafe, which was also a popular breakfast place, is closed.

Ramen Nagi is open.

What remains open is Mary Grace where you can get really good meals. However, if you’re on a budget, look elsewhere for food. Breakfast here can set you back 500+ pesos, which can cover the meals of 3 people elsewhere.

Kenny Roger’s Roasters is open along with the Jollibee at the same level.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) cafe is open as well as the Wendy’s beside it.

I have yet to see which stores and restaurants at the ground floor (arrival area) are still or already open. I hope I can take some photos when we return later this week.

Flying again thru T3

Its been a while since the last travel for work purposes. I used to fly at least once a month for project meetings, seminars, workshops and/or field work. My first flight during the Covid-19 pandemic was for a vacation last April. That was through NAIA Terminal 2 as we took PAL for our voyage.

This will be the first time in almost 2.5 years that I will be flying out of Terminal 3. Here are a few photos as we checked in for our flight.

Queue at baggage drop counters of Cebu Pacific at T3
View from the queue

I will share more photos of T3 in the next posts.

Tagbilaran – Panglao Airport Arrival

The last time we were in Bohol, the airport was still in Tagbilaran City. One had to travel about 45+ minutes if you were staying at a resort in nearby Panglao Island that is part of the province. The old airport was closed (the runway though served as a venue for ) and replaced by a new airport. This one is located in Panglao Island and close to the resorts that are the main attraction of the province.

We deplaned via tube/bridge at the new airport terminal

A photo of the control tower from the bridge

Did the airport terminal architecture take inspiration from Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills?

The corridors were well lighted, again thanks to the building design.

Our plane at the tarmac or apron unloading luggage and cargo

We arrived at the baggage claim area ahead of most people. The carts were already placed across the conveyor belt by airport staff.

Belt 2 on the other side is for international arrivals. The airport already served international flights before the pandemic. These have yet to resume.

Passengers file unto the baggage claim area to pick up their luggage.

The hallway towards the terminal exit. The toilets are on the left side of the hallway.

The sign indicates international arrivals. The airport currently does not serve international flights but these will likely resume once the pandemic threat is clearly contained. Other airports like Iloilo and Bacolod have also suspended international flights.

The international arrival area at Tagbilaran-Panglao Airport

Airport driveway

Exit towards our destination

A view of the control tower as we headed towards the airport exit gate

The new road connecting to the national road circling Panglao Island, which connects to the local roads leading to the resorts and towns in the island.

It now only takes something like 10 to 15 minutes to many of the resorts in Panglao Island. This is a convenience to tourists. However, the distance from the main island of Bohol (the rest and most of the province) means a longer travel time for Boholanons or Bol-anons to/from their hometowns from/to the airport. This looks to be a non-issue considering the pros of the new airport outweighs its cons.

More on this airport soon!