Friday , 19 April 2024

New NAIA operator to crack down on inefficiencies

The private company that will manage the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) promised not just a rehabilitation of the present structures, but reforms also in handling of passengers that address their common complaints of inefficient operations and corruption among airport officers.

San Miguel Corporation President Ramon S. Ang, who led the consortium that won the right to rehabilitate the 76-year-old airport, said, “At NAIA 3, we will increase CCTV coverage in immigration areas, featuring timers for transparency. We will also require body cameras for active duty screeners of the Office of the Transportation Security (OTS).” He said he wants to increase the availability of transport network vehicle services “at all terminals” to ensure passengers have safe vehicles with trustworthy drivers, when they leave the airport.

Ang will meet with heads of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Customs (BoC), and OTS to discuss how he can help improve their services. “Our goal is to enhance the overall passenger experience at Naia through strategic improvements, collaboration with all stakeholders, and adoption of technology, addressing key pain points in immigration, security, customs, and transportation,” he stressed.

The New NAIA Infrastructure Corp. (NNIC) recently signed a concession agreement with the government, which allows it to operate, maintain and rehabilitate the country’s premier gateway for 15 years, with an option to extend it for another 10. The P171-billion public-private partnership project will expand the passenger capacity of NAIA to 62 million from the present 32 million and provide government with annual earnings of P36 billion. 

According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Manila International Airport Authority will continue to exist, but as a regulatory agency. Operations will be totally transferred to NNIC by September this year. The set-up is patterned after the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and Clark International Airport operations.

“Before taking over NAIA’s operations, we will sit down with the BI to develop an action plan addressing long queues and other passenger concerns, such as handling excluded passengers and facilitating seamless transfers for connecting passengers,” said Ang. “Our focus includes enhancing the service level agreement with BI, optimizing immigration manpower, upgrading computer and server capacities for the e-travel system, and adjusting to the increase in international flights. We aim to improve passenger processing times by considering flight schedules, terminal assignments, and aircraft types.”

Ang wants to launch an airport management system for real-time flight and passenger load updates at NAIA, “ensuring all immigration counters are staffed consistently.” He is also exploring the adoption of “biometric passenger processing systems” and the installation of more e-gates to streamline arrivals.

Other enhancements include dedicated immigration and security lanes for overseas Filipino workers, business and first class passengers, and those from the Association of Southeast Nations; expansion of lanes to expedite processing; establishment of passenger assistance counters for immigration-related issues. Ang also wants to implement queueing systems and assign airline queue managers “to prioritize imminent departures.”

Aside from requiring body cameras for OTS screeners, Ang is looking to “address the shortage of screening officers through enhanced recruitment and compensation.” Government sources said most OTS screeners and frontliners are actually job-order employees whose salaries are delayed sometimes up to three months. While it is not clear how NNIC can raise government staff salaries, the executive said, “It’s something we need to work out with OTS and see how we can improve the service level.”

Ang said customer service and security training of OTS should be expanded, “emphasizing consistent policies on carry-on items.” Also, he is considering pre-check programs for frequent and business travelers in all terminals and is looking to “improve queueing and screening areas, employing advanced machines for a smoother security check.”

Ang will be working with BoC to streamline baggage inspection post-claim, before passengers exit the arrival hall, and “intensify information campaigns on prohibited items and duties through airline partnerships.”

With regard to tourists’ complaints on overcharging taxis, he said they will “simplify the accreditation for more transport providers, while ensuring compliance with international standards on vehicle condition, payment options, transparent rates; incorporate comprehensive transport options, including fares and schedules, on the airport’s website and mobile app; and introduce ride-sharing van services, similar to those in the US, for improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness.”

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