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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sánchez: Two airports

WHOEVER said the Philippines has the worst international airports probably might not have going around much in Southeast Asia.

Of course, I could be wrong. But allow me to compare notes based on my personal recent experience. This time, though, the international airport is Terminal II since my new climate change colleagues took the Philippine Airlines trip to Jakarta, Indonesia. The other airport is the Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.

Terminal II is cooler, with its air-conditioning is functioning well in most areas, including the check-in counter and especially the pre-departure area. In contrast, most of Soekarno was warm, except for the pre-departure section.

I give both airports a good mark on courtesy and patience, but I got a bit irritated at the Soekarno check-in counter. The Indonesian PAL agent was more on the slow side. If there was a race, I won’t be surprised if the Filipinos win.

For the bathroom, I’ll give Soekarno a better grade. Both airports have clean with sensor-driven flush toilets. But Soekarno have dry floors compared to Terminal II’s often wet floors.

For security inspections, Soekarno has the slight edge. Security officers required passengers to bring out their laptops, obviously following the security measures at Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

However, I’ll give Soekarno a lower grade for service at the souvenir shops, although we saw only one shop open at 12 midnight. Processing the sales transaction took a long time, and the shop had a very warm atmosphere.

The Indonesian airport would also score low in interaction with foreign passengers. Filipinos speak better English and therefore gives better information. Of course, that could be a biased opinion since the problem I had was the accent, very different from Filipinos English.

Soekarno has an aged feel, made me think it needed some sprucing up with innovations, very much like the case of NAIA I. In contrast, NAIA Terminal 2 looks more modern and cleaner.

It would be interesting to compare notes with Garuda, Indonesia’s flag carrier, and compare it with PAL. In PAL’s case, it lived up to its billing of Planes Always Late. We waited 20 minutes for PAL to depart, and 45 minutes to fly out from Manila to Bacolod.

As for food, it might be unfair to compare Indonesian with Filipino food.

It would be like comparing oranges and guavas. So my answer would be non-graded. I like spicy food, but I had to give up on even the best Indonesian dishes with almost 50-50 chili and rice, although of course we can buy plain rice. As for the dishes, most are still 50-50, the better (or worst part, depending on where you sit) goes to chilies.

I would give the Filipino way a higher score on hotel services leading to the airport.

Harris Hotel, one of the swankier Indonesian hotels, had no shuttle van or taxis to assist passengers catch their flight. We had to wait for nearly 30 minutes before we could get two taxis. Compare that to Bacolod, let alone Metro-Manila, that has its own fleet of vans and cabs in the service of guests and passengers.

And finally, I’ll give Metro-Manila a higher grade on ease of traffic.

Hard to think when you’re stuck in traffic on Friday night flights.

But in Jakarta, for most part of the travel, we were all in tenterhooks. Even at 10 pm, traffic was still as tightly-packed, and it was a Wednesday night.

Can you imagine if one gets stuck during TGIMs (Thank God it’s Monday), the Indonesian version of our TGIF? For Indonesians, Friday nights are devoted to Muslim prayer. Their yuppies reserve their happy hours during Mondays.

Please email comments to bqsanc@yahoo.com

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