Monday, 23 February 2009

NAIA to remain country’s top gateway

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Filed Under: Air Transport
MANILA -- The Ninoy Aquino International Airport shall remain the country’s top gateway with the expected full operation of Terminal 3 in 2009, according to airport executives.

Manila International Airport Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi said the opening of Terminal 3 would increase the complex’s total terminal capacity to 32 million passengers a year in the next five to 10 years. The MIAA does not see NAIA being overtaken by other international airports in the country, according to Cusi.

Cusi, in an interview with reporters, said the MIAA has been focusing on how to turn NAIA into a globally competitive airport, providing new facilities and services consistent with international standards.

Terminal 3, which opened in 2008, has yet to reach its full operational capacity because international and domestic airlines are still finalizing their transfer to the new facility. Earlier, MIAA said Terminal 3 would be fully operational by the middle of 2009.

Cusi said that in 2008, the NAIA complex, handled about 90 percent of all international traffic in the country and accounted for more than 22 million international and domestic passengers or 75 percent of all passenger movements in the country.

He attributed the increase in passenger traffic to the aggressive marketing and promotional efforts of domestic airlines and also to the opening of Terminal 3, which provided added space for more passengers.

MIAA statistics obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that the existing design capacity of the three NAIA Terminals and the Manila Domestic Airport could accommodate 30 million air passengers.

The transfer of international flights to Terminal 3 and accommodation of more domestic flights there would enable Terminal 1 to host more domestic flights. The adjustments would translate to an additional two million air passengers in the next five to 10 years, according to the MIAA's projection.

Side by side the reconfiguration of flight accommodations in the complex, Cusi said MIAA embarked on “modest but useful” improvements aimed at maintaining the prestige of NAIA being the country’s main gateway.

The Terminal 1 arrival lobby has been expanded and other renovations were done to give it “a more updated look” and make it more functional to address the changing operational needs of the gateway.

For the passengers using the terminals, MIAA accredited metered taxis and set up free shuttle services.

New security equipment were also acquired and a “more judicious” housekeeping has been practiced, Cusi said.

The MIAA is also currently enforcing a program first launched in 2007, dubbed “Go the Extra Smile,” which aims not only to promote the complex as the friendliest airport but also to project the inherent good-natured characteristics of the Filipinos in the NAIA where nine out of 10 international passengers pass by.

Cusi said the NAIA complex would undergo further improvements in the years.

Cusi said the state-of-the-art wide bodied jumbo jets called for the upgrading of the NAIA's landing strip.

The existing runway, he said, could manage to service large new aircrafts as noted by the 2007 team of the A380. Existing parking gates at the NAIA terminals with some adjustments could also house the A380 series.

Cusi said NAIA’s two gates per terminal could fit the wide bodied jumbo jets.

In view of the estimated increase in passenger traffic within the next years and the upgrading of the runway strip, MIAA would increase the passenger capacity of the holding gates and put into place additional check-in counters, the airport chief added.

Airport officials said the growth in the number of passengers would also mean a growth in the cargo volume being handled by NAIA.

MIAA assistant general manager of airport development and corporate affairs Tirso Serrano said the agency has been planning to build new cargo houses that would cater to the expected growth in cargo volume.

MIAA is also studying the probability of converting airport properties into attractive and functional “airport cities” that will bring in bigger and better businesses closer to the airport complex, according to Serrano.

Cusi said collection efforts and revenue generation would be maximized to enable the agency to support its capital expenditures and further infrastructure programs.

"The NAIA would continue to provide its investors and the traveling public with the necessary upgrades in passenger servicing and airline accommodation to provide responsive, dynamic and meaningful services for many years to come," Serrano added.

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