Monday, May 28, 2012

Kopi Talk Decongesting airports

Thanks to a brawl at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, it has come to light that the newest terminal of the country’s premier airport lacks closed-circuit television cameras. CCTVs are not the only basic equipment lacking at the NAIA Terminal 3, and in many airports outside Metro Manila. The Department of Transportation and Communications is now planning to improve service at all three terminals of the NAIA by decongesting air traffic. Airlines could wholeheartedly cooperate, spreading their flights to late or pre-dawn hours. But this will require sufficient runway lights and night flight navigation equipment at air traffic control towers. Additional employees are also needed to handle night flights at secondary airports. This could take time and money. The DOTC wants to fast-track decongestion by cutting the number of domestic flights at the NAIA. For one airline alone, the plan means about 100 flights fewer per day, for aircraft with a passenger capacity of 180. The DOTC move needs careful study, considering its impact on the travel industry, which the government is trying to boost. Other planned measures include phasing out private flying schools that use NAIA facilities. Corporate jets and small aircraft used by private individuals may also have to find another airport. The problem is yet another reminder of the urgent need to upgrade the country’s airports. Philippine airports are stuck in the days when most countries were just starting to build facilities that could accommodate jet aircraft. Even at the NAIA, the runway is inadequate, and there is no more room for expansion. The tarmac gets flooded during the monsoon season, when power outages and leaking ceilings are common. The situation is worse in secondary airports, where it’s not unusual to see cows and goats strolling along the tarmac. In Baguio City, a top tourist destination, failure to impose zoning regulations around the airport forced its closure to all but helicopters and light aircraft. While major airports around the world operate 24 hours a day, NAIA employees still keep regular government working hours, with lunch break. Anything beyond that is overtime, and the extra pay must be shouldered by private foreign and local airlines – a practice unique to the Philippines. These woes are on top of taxes and fees that the carriers complain are imposed only in this country. With foreign airlines reducing flights in and out of Manila or pulling out altogether, there might be no need for a DOTC-sponsored decongestion program at the NAIA. -