In defense of Naia 1, the supposed ‘worst in the world’
It is true there are lots of things wrong with Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) 1. Delayed flights caused by a lack of runways is one of them.
I have been to Naia 1, perhaps a dozen times or more every year in the past 30 years or more, using it as takeoff point in my travels to other countries. Let me point out some of its better features.
The most prominent of these—despite their being regularly accused (though sometimes justly) of coddling fugitives from justice—are the immigration officers. In my hundreds of trips in and out of the country over the years, only once did they treat me with anything other than courtesy and efficiency; and even on that one occasion (traveling with a lady young enough to be my granddaughter) I could readily understand that the officer had every right to be suspicious about my trip.
Yes, I have the greatest respect for the way the immigration staff treat travelers—especially when compared, say, with their counterparts in North America and Europe, more so in the way they deal with Filipinos.
Second, it cannot be overemphasised how fortunate Manila is to have an international airport so close to the city’s main centers. The sites of most airports in other countries seem to have been chosen by their local taxi drivers’ associations to boost their members’ incomes at the expense of travelers.
Third, it may be good for one’s physical health—but not so for one’s mental comfort—to have to travel the distance (which can be counted by kilometers) between migration counters and boarding gates typical of the new, shiny airports in Hong Kong and Bangkok. Give me Naia 1 anytime!
Sure, Naia 1 is grotty—it doesn’t cater to the Scrooges who scrounge a cheap night by sleeping in the airport (and remember these are the people who branded Naia 1 as the “worst in the world”)—and its duty-free stores are laughable. But if the constant knocking of it ever leads to its being replaced by a Suvarnabhumi replica in Central Luzon which is two or more hours away, most of its critics will wish they had kept their criticisms to themselves.
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