naia blues – papaalisin niyo ba ako o hindi?

Photo of the Centennial terminal area at the N...

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CHINO HILLS, California – I am sure at some point, someone within the Philippine aviation regulatory agencies had a perfectly plausible reason for the multiple inspection system for air travelers leaving for other countries. This system includes a gamut of checks that can leave one either exhausted, irritated, exasperated or any combination of the above.

It starts off when a security guard inspects your travel document and ticket before you even enter the terminal. Then you move on to the security conveyor belt which checks both your hand-carried and check-in luggage. You move on to the line for the airline where you check-in. Upon entry into the roped-off line, someone from your airline checks your passport and travel documents again. Then you finally reach the ground agent who again examines your travel documents and checks in your luggage. Assuming your baggage does not breach the allowable weight limit, you then move on to the next step. I try to make sure I’m within the limit so I’ve never quite experienced what happens when you go over the baggage limit, but I’m sure that if you do, this will somehow involve having to go to another line.

After having checked in, you line up and pay for the terminal fee. I still have not gotten a satisfactory answer as to why this just doesn’t get tacked on to the price of the ticket. Everybody pays for it anyway. I guess the government doesn’t trust the airlines nor the travel agents to remit the money to the airport authority. After paying, you line up at the entrance to the immigration section where someone again checks your documents and makes sure you have paid the terminal fee. Take note that no one has told you to fill up the departure card up to this point. When you get to the “checker”, he/she will check your documents and see if you’ve filled up the departure card. If you haven’t, you are asked to fill one up and line up again (again, it would have been nice if someone actually told you to do this before you got on this line).

Then you finally get into one of the immigration lines. The immigration officer checks your documents again and does something on their computer (I guess to make sure you are not on some hold departure list). After stamping your passport, you line up again to get into the pre-departure area. This is where you have to take off your shoes and have these and your hand-carried luggage scanned.

Finally, you get to the pre-departure area. No one really tells you what happens next. If you have traveled abroad and even domestically, you know enough to know that you just wait for your flight to be called and line up again to board your flight. In the Philippines, however, we just have to make sure that it is really, really safe to have you on board your plane. So you line up again, have your hand-carried luggage physically opened and manually checked this time. You then take off your shoes and hand these over to the manongs and manangs who have to bear with all the manner of smelly shoes while “inspecting” these. Shoe-less, you are subjected to a pat-down. After going through all these, you finally meet up with your shoes and line up again. This final inspection involves another document inspection. I guess we really, really, really want to make sure.

Unless I’m wrong, the whole process involves at least 7 document checks, 4 luggage checks and 4 security (on the traveler) inspections. And this is if everything goes well. God forbid, you mess up along the way. Despite all this, someone going to San Francisco got to the last check before being told that he had mistakenly lined up on the queue for the flight to Los Angeles. One also wonders how former Congressman Ronald Singson was able to slip through this security blanket with illegal paraphernalia before being caught at Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok international airport. Or maybe we shouldn’t.

I presume that the point of all these is to comply with international air travel regulations. Well first, when you leave other countries, you notice that you don’t have to go through this much of a maze before you board your aircraft. Second, while the current system has been in place, the Philippines has managed to be (1) downgraded by the US FAA from a Category 1 to Category 2 citing policies that are below international standards and the lack of qualified safety personnel; (2) cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization for being a “significant safety concern”; and, (3) been blacklisted by the European Union.

Despite knowing all these, you grin and bear it because you know that none of these is the fault of the people doing all these checks and inspections. It is the fault of their “bosses” who because of their VIP status probably have not gone through the typical departure experience and thus, don’t appreciate the hassles that passengers go through just to get out of the country. There is a new administration at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. I hope they do better.

In the meantime, I hope we have not sucked out all the pleasant memories from all of the tourists who have to go through these inane and unnecessarily burdensome procedures. Because if we have, good luck to our tourism officials trying to invite them back.

Hay naku…


One Comment on “naia blues – papaalisin niyo ba ako o hindi?”

  1. hiddendragon says:

    But see, we’ve never had a terrorist or bombing incident at our airports! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

    That terminal fee (250 to 550) is a very good cash cow for the people concerned. It provides at least 3 levels of employment, and I heard some tickets get, um, recycled. So why give the messy, unpopular task to the airlines when there’s such good money to be made, plus employment to your kamaganak and kapitbahay.

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