I flew to Puerto Princesa City last week. I was wearing sunglasses as I made my way to the plane when our flight was called.
As I approached the gate, a member of the Philippines Airlines ground crew asked me to remove my glasses and stared at me for a few seconds. My travelling companion asked what it was for. I had absolutely no idea!
What did she expect to see behind the glasses? Since she had not seen me before, how would she know I was me? It would have been understandable if she wanted to compare my passport photograph with the real person. But all she had was one end of my boarding pass.
It reminded me of a letter from Tony Oposa, environmental lawyer and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner. Tony takes “offense” that our airport was labeled the worst in the world. If they called it the most stupid, he would have no objection.
Tony mentions the vehicle security check, with guards peering briefly inside the vehicle and the luggage compartment. He does not think they really know what they should be looking for. The exercise reminds me of comedian Rex Navarrete’s joke about the “magic wand,” a stick that security personnel in shopping malls use to check bags and packages. The stick will not detect a bomb and may even cause it to explode.
And there’s the terminal fee. I have been to countries much smaller than ours and do not remember paying a terminal fee. If they do collect it, the amount is bundled with the price of the ticket so you do not notice. In the past, when I was invited to cover international conferences, sponsors would always apologize that they could not pay for the terminal fee.
Tony also mentions public transportation, rather the lack of it. Other airports have buses and trains. At least now, there are yellow taxis. They are more expensive than ordinary taxis but they are cleaner and they smell better. The drivers look neater, too.
Tony notes other things, too, but I would like to add the oddity of the so-called Customs green lane. In every country I have been to, the green lane means, if you have nothing to declare, you exit the airport without going through baggage check, unless you look suspicious or authorities have derogatory information about you.
But here the only way you can exit quickly the green lane is if somebody behind you has more stuff. Then the Customs person will make you feel like you are preventing him/her from dealing with more “rewarding” things.
Budget airline woes
A reader who asks not to be identified wishes to bring to the attention of Jetstar airline’s management the unhappy experience he and other passengers had when they returned from a trip to New Zealand. He said the experience really taught them the perils and realities of low-cost travel.
He said, “Many passengers on the Sept. 28 flight from Auckland arrived at dawn only to find out that their bags were offloaded during the long delayed connection in Singapore.”
Several passengers, he said, had to go back to their provinces without their bags. And the Jetstar people told them they should claim the bags personally at NAIA. He got his bag almost a week later “with a few things smashed and chocolates melted.”
But an elderly farming couple from Iloilo waited for theirs for two weeks. The airline also insisted they collect it from the city’s airport, about three hours away from their remote village.
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