Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NAIA 3 finally opens in Manila.

This is from the Inquirer.
It seems that all terminals except Terminal 3 are processing traffic far beyond rated capacity. Whenever I have landed there or left there has not been much in the way of delays but I have heard others complain. There is always the problem of making sure you have money to pay the exit fee! These fees keep increasing and smaller airports now are joining the bandwagon. I see that there are still legal battles going on concerning Terminal 3!

Inquirer Headlines / Nation
After 6 years, NAIA 3 finally opens
By Tarra QuismundoPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: July 23, 2008
MANILA, Philippines—Once a white elephant that slept soundly in the dark, the mothballed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) flickered into life before dawn Tuesday and accepted its first passengers.
Lights glowed on one side of the kilometer-long terminal on Andrews Avenue in Pasay City while the rest of the city slept. At 3:02 a.m., the facility finally started partial operations for domestic flights of Cebu Pacific Air, ending some six stale years forced by contract controversies and building safety concerns.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza.
Added Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president: “This is like heaven when we just came from hell ... It is going to be the same for our passenger experience.”
Originally built for some 13 million international passengers annually, the NAIA 3 terminal opened its main hall—around 20 percent of the building—for eight local flights. The load is expected to carry a daily average of 500 people to destinations like Caticlan, Tuguegarao, Laoag, San Jose (Mindoro) and Naga.
The biggest change
“This gives passengers a welcome reprieve coming from the old domestic terminal and then coming here. It’s a major change ... [Passengers] asked if there will be any changes in the process, and we said there’s none. The biggest change is the feeling of passengers when they come in,” said Cebu Pacific spokesperson Candice Iyog.
Randy Samson and wife Maria Donna Lee were the first passengers to walk into the terminal for check-in Tuesday, more than two hours ahead of their 5:10 a.m. flight to Caticlan.
They were among 48 passengers that boarded Cebu Pacific’s maiden NAIA 3 flight 5J-891, which used one of the airline’s two 72-seater turbo-propeller ATR 72-500s.
Legal disputes that had for long kept the NAIA 3 shut seemed a distant reality for passengers who were only too glad to be using the modern terminal.
“It looks better than the old terminal and the security was very tight. I was informed that we will be using the NAIA 3 and I expected that there might be some additional procedure to be done so we decided to come early,” said Maria Donna Lee, the first recorded NAIA 3 passenger for which she received a roundtrip Cebu Pacific ticket to Caticlan.
First-time Philippine visitors Zheng Yanxia, Wei Zhigang and Mai Ruifang readily noted the difference between the old international terminal and the newer facility when they arrived in Manila Tuesday.
‘At last, it’s open’
The group from Guangzhou province had arrived via a Cebu Pacific flight from China and passed through the NAIA 1 before they shuttled to the new facility. They were not aware that it was the NAIA 3’s opening day until told by the media.
“It’s much, much better. It’s very clean,” said Zheng, 28, who booked a five-day stay in Boracay with her group.
Lisa Panaligan, 33, a migrant worker on a month-long vacation here, thought the new terminal was more conducive to travel than the old NAIA terminal she had been used to seeing on her way to jobs in Taiwan and Dubai.
“At long last, it was opened. When it comes to comfort, it’s bigger and the style of the terminal is for international. The security check was more strict. More expats would be encouraged to come here,” said Panaligan, who flew to Boracay with sister Racquel and aunt Nida Stuart.
Operating at a loss
Those who booked their flights before the planned opening was finalized were informed by phone call, text and e-mail about their flight’s transfer to the new terminal, passengers said.
Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said that partial operations of the NAIA 3 would cost more than the fees to be generated.
“We only have eight flights, that will not even be enough to pay the electricity bill. But we’re looking at it as a whole, that we have to put it into use for the interest of the public,” Cusi said.
He said power costs alone to feed the NAIA 3 terminal lights and air-conditioning units would cost roughly P1 million per day even at partial operations.
Cebu Pacific is planning to move all its operations to NAIA 3, while Philippine Airlines (PAL) is expected to begin operations of its budget-brand PAL Express at the new facility.
The MIAA now operates four terminals, including the NAIA 1 and 2 (Centennial Terminal), and the Manila Domestic Terminal (MDT).
The NAIA 1, built for 4.5 million passengers yearly, was used by 6.5 million passengers last year. The Centennial Terminal, home to PAL operations, hosted 10 million travelers in 2007, or 3 million beyond capacity. The MDT’s 2.5-million capacity building hosted 5 million last year.
Cusi said talks were also under way for PAL to use the NAIA 3 terminal for arrivals of its early morning trans-Pacific flights—from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Vancouver.
Cebu Pacific is hoping to shift to full domestic operations at the NAIA 3 by early August, moving the rest of its local flights to 19 destinations, Iyog said.
The move would transfer some 80 percent of total domestic operations at the MDT, freeing up the crammed and aged facility for other airlines. The MIAA would retain the domestic terminal fee at P200.
A sigh of relief
“The upside is that passengers are now going to decide to take (Cebu Pacific) because of a better terminal. Now, we have a level playing field,” Iyog said.
The MIAA is expected to continue repair and completion work at the facility as partial operations proceed. Unfinished parts of the terminal include the commercial strip at the departure level.
During ceremonies at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, some six hours after the inaugural flight, government officials congratulated each other for finally opening the terminal.
Calling the old domestic terminal “an embarrassment,” Sen. Richard Gordon said: “I’m sure when people arrive here, they’ll feel comfort, confidence, pride and safety. Today, we move forward, we address the severe problems we are facing. We heave a sigh of relief.”
The NAIA 3 opening beat the congressional oversight committee’s September deadline for the MIAA to open the terminal.
The MIAA had twice postponed planned openings of the terminal in 2006 and 2007 because of structural defects that were traced to the March 27, 2006, collapse of a gypsum board ceiling at the terminal’s arrival area.
The NAIA 3 had remained shut because of controversies surrounding the contract between the Philippine government and the Philippine International Air Terminals Corp. (PIATCo) consortium, which built the terminal with Germany’s Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide (Fraport) as its principal investor.
The Supreme Court voided the contract in 2003, but claims for the terminal’s construction cost continue in international arbitration courts. With a report from Reuters
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