Friday, October 26, 2007

Third world realities in a first world airport!

Iloilo City - I am in Iloilo for the 9th National meeting of the Philippine Association of Marine Science. So much has changed in this friendly city since the last time I was here about ten years ago. There are more buildings, malls and roadworks are everywhere and of course the traffic jams but the Ilonggo charm is still there.

The province boasts of the first world class Iloilo International Airport in Santa Barbara town about 1.5 hours from the city center. The Iloilo airport is probably the most efficient airport in the whole Philippines. One can be out of the plane and onto ground transport in 15 minutes or less. It puts the Manila airport to shame! I felt that I landed in Cairns International in Australia. The Iloilo airport looks like the Australian one.

But it seems that the infrastructure that should support airport business and functions are not yet there. In most airports in the world, if you plan to make changes to your flight plans you can easily change your bookings at the airport ticket office. Since I have to make a last minute change in order to accomodate a meeting with the Governor of Guimaras province, I immediately sought out the PAL ticket office only to find out I can't change my booking there since they can't get in touch with the Manila main ticket office. Then they asked me to go to their ticket office at the now abandoned Mandurriao airport to make a booking change!

It seems not to make sense that one has to make a booking at an office in an abandoned airport!

At the Mandurriao ticket office, the reservations computer system was down. It wasn't the fault of the staff or the local computers but that the Manila computers were kaput! Several customers who needed to fly to Manila on quick notice were there and they can't be accomodated.

It is likely that they moved their business to the rival airline with planes with a yellow fuselage!

But I have to commend PAL's reservation staff in Iloilo who were gracious enough to extend all possible assistance to me since I have to fly out to the US.

So I got my booking change after a few hours. So I wasted a day that I should have been at meetings.

I'm sure Iloilo will do its best even if Manila screws up!

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