Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Transportation Secretary Seeks Support of Airlines for Airport Maintenance

The Duterte administration is beginning to make changes at the country's primary international gateway as it seeks to shed its reputation as one of the world's worst airports. The nation's new Transportation Secretary, Arthur Tugade, has sought the help of airlines operating at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to maintain the public restrooms at all terminals.

Image Source: Inviva Link
According to Tugade, the company that originally won the bidding to maintain the airport's utilities has been performing below the standards necessary to maintain a quality service, which triggered the new Transportation Secretary to make changes.

"One of the basic problems which irritated the community is the issue of maintenance of the washrooms and utilities inside the airport. So it has come to me that one way to approach this is to remove the activity from government and give it to the people that are operating in the airport," Tugade said. The plan now is to remove the existing company from government service and transfer maintenance of the facilities to the private sector, led by the nation's top airlines.

On July 7, Philippine carriers were asked to sign a memorandum of agreement indicating that they would accept responsibility for improving and maintaining the airport's toilets and utilities. The airlines welcomed the decision, which came as a surprise to Tugade given that it would mean increased costs for the nation's carriers.

"I asked Mr. Lance (Gokongwei, CEO of Cebu Pacific), sabi ko, 'Sir puwede ho bang humingi ng tulong?' At sabi niya, 'You know Art just ask for help and my company and group of companies will extend our support and cooperation,'" Tugade said. "That was the same situation when I talked to other airlines." he added.

The airlines that signed the Memorandum of Agreement include Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia Philippines, PAL Express, Cebgo, and Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions. The signatories included the following:

  • Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei
  • Philippine Airlines President and COO Jaime Bautista
  • AirAsia Philippines COO Capt. Dexter Comendador
  • PAL Express President Bonifacio Sam
  • Cebgo President and CEO Michael Ivan Shau
  • Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions AVP Leah de Guzman Jore.

Tugade added that the entire experience was positive as it demonstrated cooperation between the airlines and the new government. "Napakaganda nitong experience at ceremony na ito because it shows how far the business community is willing to show the support and cooperation to the Duterte administration," Tugade said.

NAIA remains a 'worst airport'

The premier gateway of the Philippines was listed as one of the world's worst airports ranked by the online website, The Guide to Sleeping in Airports from 2011 to 2013. The airport significantly improved its ranking in 2014 finishing in fourth place, while in 2015, it was knocked off the list entirely. However, it is still remains the eighth worst airport in Asia.

Image Source: Wikimedia
"Passengers remain annoyed by the poor customer service, the long queues, the sub-par food selection, the lack of restrooms and the crowded seating areas. There is definitely a long way to go but we're thrilled to see improvements come along bit by bit."  stated the Sleeping in Airports website.

Since taking office, the Duterte administration has wasted no time in making changes at the country's top airport, acting on the feedback of both passengers and airlines. The decision to transfer control of airport maintenance to the private sector represents a shift from the previous administration, which preferred government control and oversight of the nation's airports rather than cooperating with private companies. In 2014, San Miguel Corporation presented a P10 billion proposal to construct a brand new airport for Manila. However, the Aquino administration refused to acknowledge unsolicited bids. Meanwhile, following the success at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, there is a stronger desire to shift management of the nation's airports to the private sector.

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