Let's talk airports: Which one is the best?

By Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 19 2011 01:49 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2011 06:00 PM

Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino netizens were abuzz over a website that named Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 as the worst in the world, citing poor facilities, bribery and security concerns.

On abs-cbnNEWS.com's Facebook page, most of them agreed with the observations made by The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, while others defended the NAIA Terminal 1 by saying that other airports -- such as those in war-torn areas -- could be worse.

Others, meanwhile, questioned the website's credibility.

The general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has said that it is unfair to tag the NAIA Terminal 1 as the worst in the world.

In an interview, Jose Angel Honrado said that much has been done to improve the airport.

"Palagay ko hindi masyadong makatarungan 'yung pag-declare nila ng worst airport. However, we take this as a challenge. We have done so much already," he said.

Honrado also stressed that incidents of extortion and theft inside the airport have already been resolved.

The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, which is run by a travel agent named Donna McSherry, said that when it comes to the world's worst airports, NAIA Terminal 1 is followed by Paris Beauvais in France, Reykjavic Keflavik in Iceland, Bergamo Orio Al Serio in Italy, Kiev Airport in Ukraine, Frankfurt-Hahn airport in Germany and London Luton Airport in the United Kingdom.

The website, meanwhile, said the best airport in the world is in Singapore, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Amsterdam, Germany, Canada and the United States.

Still one of the worst

This is not the first time that NAIA Terminal 1 made it to the worst airports list of The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.

Before getting the top spot, the airport ranked fifth in the travel website's list.

Other websites, such as the Matador Notebook, have also named Manila as having one of the world's worst airports.

Author Matt Scott wrote in his 2008 article that "even the airport employees are out to scam, steal or otherwise take your possessions from you."

"Many travelers talk of security and other airport staff asking for 'donations' (read: bribes) to allow you to pass through the airport 'without incident,'" Scott wrote.

Other airports included in the Matador Notebook's list include those from India, Iraq, France, New York, Nepal, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria.

World's best

So where are the world's best airports?

Perhaps a more reliable source would be the 2011 Skytrax Airport Awards, which are based from survey results from 11.38 million questionnaires completed by over 100 different nationalities of airline passengers from more than 240 airports.

This year's winner is the Hong Kong International Airport, followed closely by perennial favorite and 2010 top airport Changi Airport in Singapore.

Changi Airport in Singapore

Coming in third place is South Korea's Incheon International Airport, which is the overall winner in the 2009 Skytrax Airport Awards.

The most improved airport award, on the other hand, went to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in China, OR Tambo International Airport JNB in South Africa, and Bangalore International Airport in India.

Other awards include best premium service airport, best airport for low-cost airlines, best airport according to region, best airport hotel, best airport shopping, best airport terminal cleanliness and best airport dining, among others.

The Philippines' airports are nowhere to be found in Skytrax's list for this year.

Similar results were seen in the Airport Service Quality Awards (ASQ) for 2010, which were released early this year by Airports Council International (ACI).

ACI named the Incheon International Airport in Seoul as the best airport worldwide, followed by the Changi Airport and the Hongkong International Airport.

The awards were based from a survey conducted at 153 airports worldwide.

Just like in Skytrax, the Philippines did not get any citation in the ASQ awards.

Improvements

MIAA's Honrado admitted that lack of space has prevented them from giving NAIA Terminal 1's airport toilets a modern look just like what is seen in Hong Kong and Singapore.

He added that the NAIA Terminal 1 is already 30 years old, and is clearly showing signs of wear and tear.

"When we start comparing NAIA 1 to the rest of Southeast Asia, specifically Hong Kong and Singapore, [it is] lagging behind," he said, adding that they are conducting a structural study to determine if NAIA Termina 1 one can still withstand renovation.

The airport chief said the only way that the Philippines can compete when it comes to airports is by opening an new gateway in Clark, Pampanga.

"The new gateway will give us a modern building and ample space para sa airport operation. Ang challenge lang is how we connect Clark to Manila," he explained.

NAIA has two other terminals -- Terminal 2, which is the exclusive terminal of flag carrier Philippine Airlines; and the new Terminal 3, which was supposed to be Asia's most modern airport terminal.

With no other award to hold on to this year, NAIA Terminal 1 will have to live with the "world's worst airport" tag in the meantime.