Different Stories at Philippines Airports

air transport, Manila, airport, scams

While Cebu has been recently named one of Asia best airports thanks to its brand new spectacular terminal, Manila NAIA continues to make headlines for the low quality of its services and the high number of scams conducted by taxi drivers or/and airport’s employees…

Let start with the good news. Manila is not all the Philippines. The capital is infamous for its never-ending traffic jam, its pollution, its slums and the scams targeting travellers not aware of all the rules… While Manila airport is making regularly headlines for its bad service, an other airport in the Philippines achieved what Manila can only dream of: being named best airport in Asia.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) was recently named one of Asia’s best airports for the second time in its history. The fully renovated airport, which opened this year a spectacular new international terminal was awarded the title of Asia Pacific Medium Airport of the Year during the CAPA ( Center for Asia Pacific Aviation) Aviation Awards for Excellence in Singapore.

According to CAPA, MCIA was selected among airports with over 10 million annual passengers for “having been the biggest standout strategically, has established itself as a leader and done the most to advance the progress of the aviation industry.”

Maybe an award could also been given to Manila airport for the highest number of scams on passengers in Asia-Pacific. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport  is indeed notorious for the incredible sophistication of scams performed on travellers. From ‘laglag-bala’ (‘planted-bullet’) scam implemented by some airports’ employees to extort money from passengers, from stealing inside the luggage to adding weight on passengers’ luggage, airport’s workers and employees at least show their strong sense of creativity when cheating.

Meanwhile, the easiest scam to be trapped in is transportation from the airport. Many passengers complaint about exorbitant prices of up to Peso 3,000 (US$57) for a ride to town when rides generally should never cost more than PHP500 (US$10). Long queues due to a lack of taxis mean generally that passengers waiting for official public taxis can wait easily an hour to get one. While taxis booked with coupons are managed by unscrupulous airport’s employees who take customers to non-official drivers offering rides five times higher than the official price.

It is interesting to notice that little has been done by authorities to better control the issue despite the fact that taxi scams are notoriously known. Such as implementing an electronic taxi system like in Bangkok which attributes taxi drivers or a system of pre-paid coupons like in Kuala Lumpur or Hanoi. Although more expensive than normal taxis, it guarantees however the safety of the rider and reasonable fares.

While authorities seem to have failed to dismantle the taxi scam system, they at least propose an alternative. Since 2016, premium coach services are proposed to passengers. The airport authority has a fleet of 42 premium bus units carrying passengers to and from Roxas Boulevard/Mall of Asia  and the Makati Central Business District. Busses stop at major hotels and malls. Recently Point-to-Point (P2P) premium buses added two new routes towards the Province of Laguna and Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

Passengers can also avoid the taxi scam by booking directly Grab cars. There is even a Grab waiting area set up in front of each terminal at the arrivals level. However, how about the tarnished image of the Philippines for travellers arriving for the first time in the country and immediately plunged into Manila harsh and unpleasant reality?