Not the worst airport

April 15, 2011

Two recent stories about the Philippines caught my attention the other day. From the Inquirer: “Naia 1 rated among world’s 10 worst airports” and “Philippines tops Googles’ places-to-visit search list.”

As airports go, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 is “one of the world’s 10 worst airports and the worst in Asia in 2010.” As a resort destination that people search on Google, “The Philippines ranked on top of a list of ‘resorts’ that people all over the world look for on” and “The Philippines was the highest-ranked country from Asia.”

What that means, I guess, is that tourists want to come here for the Philippines’ resorts, but hate the airport when they get here.

On the Google list, the Philippines topped; Fiji, South Africa, India, Singapore, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Iraq, Canada and Namibia.

On the list of worst airports, the Philippines came in at No. 5, below Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais in Paris, France; Moscow’s Sheremetyevo, and Los Angeles International Airport. The winners were Singapore’s Changi, Incheon in Korea, Hong Kong, Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Munich, Germany’s airport. Is there any reason why the best airports are those frequently used by Filipino tourists and overseas workers?

There is no reason to dispute the Google list, although searching for vacation destinations in Iraq may be a little premature.

As far as airports go, it is not surprising to see Manila’s Terminal 1 on the “worst” list. But then again, personally, I have been in about 50 airports around the world, and I think they are all about the same with good and bad qualities. In Moscow, back in the days of the Soviet Union, instead of a prayer room was an area where you could read free literature about how wonderful the communist state was doing. I flew there from Singapore on the national carrier Aeroflot. The flight was delayed for three hours waiting for the wife of some important Soviet official who was finishing her Singapore shopping spree. So much for the equality of the “worker’s paradise.”

I was intrigued, though, why Manila would rank higher (or lower on the “worst” list) than Los Angeles.

The negative reviews about our airport came from a web site called, which bills itself as “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports,” “For travelers who are really on a budget and are looking for a way to skim a few bucks off their travel expenses, why not consider sleeping in an airport?”

I do not know about you, but looking for and evaluating an airport for its sleeping qualities is just about the last thing I want to do. Sleeping in an airport is what you do when your hotel checkout time is 2 p.m. and the flight leaves at midnight. Or when you have a three-hour layover to change flights at 3 a.m. to get to Manila before dinnertime.

Here are comments from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: “The washrooms were dirty and had a really rank smell.” Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport: “The atmosphere in the terminal building is awful; it’s dark like cave, dirty and small space.” Los Angeles Airport: “I couldn’t relieve myself in the terminal bathroom because the stench was so horrible.” Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport: “Think of a bombed-out ruin and you’ll get some idea. Do not try to sleep in this airport.”

So Naia is the fifth worst airport in the world (and the worst in Asia) if you are too cheap or too broke that you need to sleep in an airport.

This story should have been treated like the joke it is and treated a little less seriously. Naia Terminal 1 is certainly old and a poor gateway to the country. I think that is why Terminal 3 was built. And the comments about the new terminal were positive even from the “sleepers.” “After nearly three months traveling in SE Asia, Terminal 3 was excellent.” “Terminal 3 has so many seats and good Wi-Fi.” “Clean, neat, lots of seats, toilets are clean, security is bored but friendly, and the food places are reasonable.”

But even Terminal 1 is better for sleeping than Paris, Moscow and Los Angeles. That should count for something positive if any one cares.

Something else is interesting about the ‘best’ and ‘worst’

Each of the airports considered “best” are operated by private companies, with responsibility to shareholders and founded with the purpose of making old-fashioned capitalist profits.

Singapore’s Changi Airport is operated by Changi Airport Group, a private for-profit company. Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) operates Incheon International Airport for profit and is going to be privatized and publicly listed. Hong Kong’s Lantau airport is operated by the Airport Authority Hong Kong and intends to be publicly listed soon and currently receives no financial assistance from the government. Flughafen Muenchen GmbH (Munich) is an international private company. Schiphol Group, a private for-profit company operates Amsterdam’s airport.

Los Angeles International is operated by Los Angeles World Airports, which is the airport oversight and operations department for the city of Los Angeles. Moscow airport’s operator, Sheremetyevo International Airport, is a corporation not designed to make a profit. France’s Beauvais is operated by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de l’Oise, a nonprofit organization. Manila’s Terminal 1 is operated by a government agency, the Manila International Airport Authority, a branch of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Only Charles de Gaulle Airport is privately operated by publicly listed French company Aéroports de Paris Group.

My personal opinion is that the natural pride of the Filipino (not government operational control), given the right tools and facilities to work with, has allowed Terminal 3 to be highly rated.

“Progressive” liberal thinkers who believe that the government and only the government should determine consumer prices, provide subsidies, manage the food supply, and otherwise control the economy, might do well to provide examples where this economic model ever works. - Businessmirror -

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  1. You are right some airports in "black" Africa (read Subsaharian) are worse than NAIA.

  2. For me our airports are not too bad if you compare from other 3rd world countries. Maybe NAIA airport can be rated worst if you compare to developed countries airports. That is Bias.