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AIRPORT REVIEW: Clark International, the Philippines

30 Jul 2009 by Tom Otley

Formerly the biggest US airport base in the world, and now home to a slew of low-cost airlines, Clark International, also known as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), to the north of Metro Manila in the Philippines – second international airport on Luzon Island - has big ambitions. As its website www.clarkairport.com says, it aims to be "the best international service and logistics centre in the Asia-Pacific Region and the future premier international gateway". Nothing wrong with the mission statement, but if that's the aim, how is Clark measuring up?

Arrival

Arrival immigration has four desks, three for nationals, one for "FOREIGNERS". Not particularly welcoming, and also inefficient, since there is a 50:50 split on some incoming flights between the two groups. Not surprisingly, the nationals queue is first to vanish. Do the other desks take up the slack from the queuing passengers? (Sorry, "foreigners"?) No. Those booths "lack the equipment".

We asked Clark to comment on this. They say that the reasons "foreigners" are not allowed to switch to counters serving Filipino passengers even if they have all been processed is because immigration officers processing Filipino passengers are not authorised to process foreigners. They also point out that the processing of arriving Filipinos is faster because there are no restrictions on Filipinos entering their own country.

Departure

A seemingly endless process, with 10 "points of contact" prolonging the necessary business of security and immigration. These are:

  1. Show paper ticket and passport to gain admission to airport
  2. Have luggage security scanned
  3. Check-in
  4. Departure tax to be paid
  5. Departure tax receipt attached to boarding card
  6. Queue at entrance to immigration area
  7. Immigration
  8. Security point prior to airside
  9. Boarding card check for access to departure gate lounge
  10. Boarding card check to board aircraft
In reply to these observations, Clark says

  1. Due to limited space at DMIA terminal, only ticketed passengers are allowed to enter the building.
  2. This is to prevent prohibited and security-risk items from being brought inside the aircraft.
  3. This departure process is mandated by law.
  4. This departure process is mandated by law.
  5. This departure process is mandated by law.
  6. This departure process is mandated by law.
  7. This departure process is mandated by law.
  8. The Pre-Departure Area is a sanitised zone so everyone must pass through the final security check before being granted access to airside/pre-departure area.
  9. This is to ensure that passengers' passports and boarding passes have been stamped by Immigration.
  10. Boarding cards are checked to ensure that passengers board the correct aircraft since the terminal has no aerobridges.
We also think the grass around the runway is too long which attracts too many birds. In fact, the terminal could double as an aviary from the number of birds in there, as well as the mess they leave behind on the seats.

To this, Clark says "The CIAC Engineering and Maintenance Department maintains and regularly trims the grass, especially around the airfield. The CIAC is determined to keep DMIA safe and convenient for all passengers passing through it and welcomes comments from its valued customers that can further improve our services and facilities."

Clark International Airport needs to listen to its customers - both those travelling through it and the low-cost airlines operating from the airport (Jetstar, AirAsia, Cebu Pacific Airways), if it is to achieve its ambitions.

Have you travelled through the airport? What do you think?

Tom Otley


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