Ordeal

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Friday, August 22, 2014


MACTAN Cebu International Airport (MCIA) General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete’s assurance that GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC) “will convert the airport into a world class facility” is welcome news. But the question remains if airline companies will also ramp up the courtesy and helpfulness of their ground staff.

Upgrading facilities is easy if you have money. But it takes more than money to upgrade the courtesy and helpfulness of airline ground staff towards passengers, especially those needing special assistance.

While competition will motivate GMCAC to do a world class job of maintaining MCIA facilities, the same competition for more flights and passengers seems to blindside airlines into putting aside basic courtesy and stuffing passengers into planes as fast and as roughly as they can.

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My newly born grandson makes me fly to Metro Manila once a month. So, regularly I experience the unmannerly treatment by ground staff of “seniors, persons with disabilities (PWD), passengers travelling with infants and small children and passengers needing special assistance.”

In my last visit, I was made to wonder again why airlines go to so much trouble explaining their boarding procedure because, comes boarding time, they just completely set it aside and board passengers on a first-to-rush-first-to-board basis. By the time slow-to-react seniors and PWD’s get on their feet, people who are not supposed to yet have already boarded ahead of them.

The situation gets worse when buses are used. No staff is ever around to ensure “people needing special assistance” board first. Nobody is around to help the elderly, the PWD’s and those with children step up to and alight from buses. Somehow they manage to board, but they certainly could use the courtesy of helping them board first and ahead of the young and spritely.

Promoting a culture of tourism is a good and timely advocacy. But it should mainly include world class courtesy and helpfulness to visitors on the part of airline ground staff. Tourists coming from more cultured countries do not have fun coping with our chaotic boarding process, specifically with our complete insensitivity to passengers who need special assistance.

I wonder why airlines do not board these “special” people first before announcing the general boarding process. They seem able to do this quite admirably in international airports abroad. Could it be because local airport authorities don’t care to demand for such courtesy?

DOTC and DOT should demand that world class airport facilities are matched with world class courtesy towards passengers who need special assistance. Otherwise, travel in the Philippines is no fun at all. It is an ordeal.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2014.

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