Traveled abroad during the long weekend? You may have seen the real condition of NAIA Terminal–1. Witnessing it being labeled as "the worst airport in the world" has led me to write this blog post.


1. Renovate and Improve.
Instead of just watching from the sidelines, Kenneth Cobonque, Budji Layug and Royal Pineda took the initiative. They made a pro-bono design proposal on how we can renovate NAIA 1. If you haven't seen their proposal, watch this video.

Renovation is a doable option. Yes, it's a good idea to use the airport in Clark for international flights, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't improve NAIA–1. A fresh, renewed, positive atmosphere will definitely make travelers feel more at ease or comfortable.

If our local malls are able to provide hotel-like restrooms, why can't our own airport?  You'll probably find the answer in #2.

2. Reinvest the Terminal Fees / Airport Taxes.

It's about time to review the budget and ask, "Where is the money leaking?"

The fees collected must go back into maintaining, improving or expanding the airport facility.    

3. Make More Money
If the revenues aren't enough to maintain the airport, then we should find more ways to make money.

If you've been to Singapore's airport, you may have seen how they've built a commercial area filled with specialty stores and food concessionaires. It's a great bonding place for the family and collecting rental income is one easy way to build revenues.

4. Highlight the Filipino Hospitality
We Filipinos are known to be hospitable in our own homes. We never fail to say "kain tayo" whenever a visitor drops by during meals. Why not practice the same Filipino hospitality in our airports whenever someone arrives or departs?

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It starts with having a clean, decent and functional airport, but what will set us apart is the Filipino warmth, smile and genuine care for others. Let's make them feel wanting to come back.

5. Quality Service for Travelers
Unlike Filipino Hospitality in which we freely give, providing quality service goes with the job description - we are paid and expected to do it.

Quality service goes beyond the "good morning – good evening" courtesies similar to what we get in a typical fast-food chain, but instead, it should address the specific needs of travelers.

  • Reliable Help Desk – There's a first time for everybody. Many first-time travelers or visitors may not have an idea what to do or where to go. Provide friendly assistance.
  • Lost Baggage? Stop pointing them to the wrong direction instead, assign people who will offer sincere help. 
  • Baggage Handling – The handlers behind the conveyor belt should do their jobs with extra care. Wag po sana basta ibalibag ang luggage sa conveyor belt!
  • Get rid of "I'm not paid to do that" attitude – Helping travelers find their way is the right thing to do – even if it means not getting any tip. Every airport representative should put this to heart.
  • Airport website – Don't stop with a FAQ page, but use this website to suggest ways on how the traveler can make his stay in the airport smooth, fun and pleasurable.

6. Continuously aim to shorten lines. Streamline the process.

Shorter Lines
Management should commit to continuously manage the 'waiting-in-line time' of passengers. The best way to do this is to define a standard – "A traveler should only fall in line for a maximum of (X) minutes." Then design the procedure and flow based on the defined standard.

Streamline the Process
Forget opening the trunk of my car if you won't check it properly – Don't do it just for compliance. Make every stop purposeful. If there's a way to combine stops or checks, please do it. This will save a lot of time for both the traveler and the airport personnel.

Side note: Some Filipinos should learn how to fall in line properly.
Here's what happened to us at the check-in counter – A group of five people were in line ahead of us. Suddenly, three people show up with their luggage, apparently, they are a part of that "group", so they joined them. Then, another three came along.

All of a sudden, we found ourselves at the end of a longer line.

7. The small details matter. It will add up and create the "Airport Experience"

  • Provide better trolleys. Yes, it's a small detail, but it matters. "Yung walang kabig po pag pinatakbo." Much time and energy inside the airport is spent pushing trolleys. Why not make it pleasurable for everyone?
  • Airport Map – No one will get lost. No one will be late. And no one can say "I wasn't informed!" Include a step-by-step guide for smooth travel.
  • Signages – Make it big, clear and easy to understand. 
  • Baggage Storage – a place where you can leave your stuff while going around the airport.
  • Baggage Conveyor Belt –  To eliminate overcrowding, build longer conveyor belts. Make it clean and dry, so my luggage won't get oily.
  • Comfy Seats – you'll spend most of your time seating. Why not make it comfortable? Kenneth Cobonpue is a world-class industrial designer known for the popular furniture pieces he makes for Hollywood celebrities. We should ask him how we can make this happen.
  • Communication area – Charging Station, Internet and a reliable WIFI connection isn't a bonus anymore, it's the new standard. 
  • Best Filipino Food – Whenever we travel abroad, I look forward tasting the 'authentic food' while at the airport. Foreigners or visitors probably would like to do the same. 
  • Provide a corner where we can promote the best of the Philippines – The airport is a gateway. It's the best place to "sell" what the Philippines has to offer. Let's pitch the best places to visit, food to taste, cultural shows to watch and fun activities to do – all in one corner. 

8. Security & Safety
Here's the funny thing. Most of those who complained about the lack of security and safety weren't referring to terrorist activities or bomb threats.

They were referring to pickpockets and rude airport security officers.

Airport Security – Your goal is not only to control and provide physical security, but also to provide emotional security or peace of mind. Your job includes making everyone feel safe. Consider your approach, your tone of voice and attitude while on the job. Allow these reviews to bring out the best out of you.

9. Better Hiring Decisions
"You are the company" is a popular marketing phrase. It implies that any frontline personnel should act as an ambassador of the organization.

When qualifying applicants, we should ask, "Would I like this person to represent the Philippines?"

Hire people who are ...
  • competent, but friendly
  • fun, yet professional
  • strong in Filipino values
  • willing to contribute and influence positive change
After getting the right people on board, it's essential to provide an on-going training program. Not only will this serve the public better, but it will also enrich their capabilities.

10. Make it Fun.
A huge percentage of passengers travel for fun. Even those who are visiting for business make it a point to include leisure in their itinerary. Who said airports can't be fun and professional at the same time?

After reading this, don't hesitate to add your ideas by leaving a comment below.

Like it! – if you can relate.