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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Air travel crisis

It looks like the virus of paralysis that afflicts land transportation has infected air travel as well in our country.

Flying time to any domestic destination takes only an hour on average. But an air traveler will spend six to nine hours from the time he leaves his Metro Manila home to the time he reaches his final destination. This is due to the ancillaries of air travel which cause multiple points of delays.

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A traveler who lives in Quezon City, for example, will need two hours to reach the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). He will arrive at any of the four Naia terminals at least one hour before his flight time in order to check in, go through security and walk to his boarding gate. It has become a new normal for the departure time to be delayed by one to two hours, and even longer in a growing number of worse cases. It will take our traveler half an hour to line up at the flight gate, board the bus, settle in his plane seat, and wait for all passengers and luggage to be onboard the airplane.

What has become another new normal is that planes ready to take off experience a delay of almost an hour — in worse cases, even longer — before they actually take off because of the beeline of planes ready for the runaway. After spending an hour of flight time, the arriving passenger will devote time to disembark from the plane, walk to the arrival terminal, wait for his luggage, exit from the airport, and travel by land to his final destination.

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A traveler will use up the entire productive portion of one day if he opts to journey by air.

Travelers choose to fly, and bear the higher cost of plane tickets, because of the instinctive assumption that air travel is way faster than land or sea travel. But given the sizeable amount of time we spend to reach our final destinations via air travel, we should start wondering if the higher expense is worth it, especially for those whose destinations are within Luzon.

I’ve been bearing with the intensifying delays of air travel recently because I fly regularly from Manila to the northern Luzon city of Tuguegarao. I’ve grown to expect that the time of departure and the plane takeoff time will both result in routine delays. Grunts and curses from fellow passengers are mounting. If swearwords could kill, there would be a daily occurrence of mass murder with airline and airport officials as victims.

It’s gratifying to see that our airports are no longer the exclusive domain of haughty passengers. The salaried workforce is availing of air travel because of its growing affordability.

However, our government has failed to catch up with the needed infrastructure to satisfy the growing appetite for air travel. The huge throng of daily passengers waiting for their domestic flights at Naia 3, many of them standing because of inadequate seats, is a visual attestation to a crisis that has landed in air transportation. At Naia 3, it infuriates many as to why big numbers of passengers are always packed like sardines in gates 133 and 134, while the other gates are disproportionately less crowded.

To address the inadequacies at Naia, the government is entertaining plans to build two airports at Sangley Point in Cavite and in Bulakan, Bulacan, as proposed by huge business conglomerates. The Sangley airport is touted to cost P508.5 billion while the Bulacan airport will cost P735.6 billion.

It challenges anyone’s good sense of judgment as to why our government will rely on two airport projects that will be built from scratch, require destructive reclamation of thousands of hectares along Manila Bay, result in the demolition of thriving fishponds, and cause the dislocation of ordinary people. There’s the existing Clark International Airport, sitting on vast public land, which only needs to be complemented with two things. First, a fast commuter train to connect it with Metro Manila. Second, additional runways.

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Our people need the government to fix an enormous public need. Our government responds by satisfying gigantic business interests.

Comments to [email protected]

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TAGS: air travel, airport service, Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Naia
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