Even before the privatization of the airport, I was already vocal in praising the airport as being the country’s most efficient and responsive to passengers needs. Government bureaucracy, however, did not allow for a lot of changes to be done. This changed when GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport, Inc. (GMCAC) took over the operations of the terminal in November 2014.
The Mactan-Cebu airport, designed to handle only 4.5 million passengers annually, has served over 7 million passengers in 2014. It is now bursting at the seams and any improvement to to passenger flow and convenience is much welcome at this point, as we wait for the completion of Terminal 2.
As a regular traveler who departs and arrives through the Mactan-Cebu Airport at least twice a month, it is easy to spot changes and improvements during every transit. I was one of the doubters who opposed their takeover, since my personal bet was the Filinvest-Changi consortium. Changi Airport in Singapore has been adjudged by passengers as the world’s best for several years, and you can’t blame me for aspiring for our own airport to be on the same league.
Anyway, the contract was awarded and there was nothing naysayers could do about it. It was up to them to prove us wrong. And so far, they’re doing a really great job! Let me show you some of the recent changes and improvements at the Mactan-Cebu airport.
True to its commitment to make the Mactan-Cebu airport the best it can be, GMCAC held the first-ever Airport Users Forum last week. They invited several stakeholders, representing mothers, OFWs, PWDs, the elderly, the airlines, etc. I represented the frequent travelers group. I believe we were able to collectively raise most, if not all, of the immediate concerns and needs of many. Photo by Ms. Adela Kono
The airport management is currently led by its chief executive adviser, Andrew Acquaah-Harrison. Loved that Mr. Harrison and his team were actually aware of most of our concerns and were very enthusiastic in making changes. While the consortium’s main deliverable is to build and operate Terminal 2 of the Mactan-Cebu airport, they have invested $35 million for the “soft” improvements at Terminal 1, a testament to their group’s honest intentions for the airport
1. A greener airport
Landscaping all over the airport is being improved, but most noticeable are the vertical gardens on the structural columns at the pre-departure area. Offices and retail spaces were demolished to create a wide corridor that could accommodate up to three x-ray machines each at the domestic and international wings. And did you notice that the terminal building looks generally “cleaner” now? That’s what a fresh coat of paint, renovated ceilings with fully-functional lights, and repaired and polished floor tiles can do. A far cry from the dingy terminal we had months back.
2. Common check-in counters
Check-in counters are no longer exclusive to an airline, plus, tacky tarpaulin airline banners have now been eliminated. The airport’s 48 check-in counters can now be used by any airline, depending on demand. This has been made possible by the airport’s migration to a new computer system for passenger processing. I won’t overwhelm you with technical stuff, but these new systems are the same as those used in modern airports, including the world’s best Changi. The new system has also made possible the installation of…
3. Common self-service check-in kiosks
Self-service check-in kiosks were already present at the airport but several airlines operated their own, which made it redundant. Now, the new self-service check-in kiosks are airport-owned and serve all airlines that use the airport’s new passenger processing system. From 40 users a day when they were first introduced, the kiosks now handle at least 430 users a day! Really convenient especially for those who do not have luggage to check-in.
4. New LED flight information displays (FID)
Connected to the airport’s passenger processing system, the new flight information displays provide real time details of flights. The new FIDs are also present at the arrival and baggage claim areas
5. Common final security check
The exorbitant 300 square meter office of the former MCIAA general manager has been demolished to make space for a centralized final security screening area to be used for domestic and international operations. It operates on a “swing” concept to cope with differing passenger traffic on certain times of day.
6. New Terminal Seating
Last week, the airport started installing these new and sleek seats. They are initially being rolled out at the domestic departure areas. Instagram photo by @alwaysummerianne
7. More thoughtful use of space
Unnecessary office space (why are there too much office spaces in an airport terminal building in the first place?) have been demolished for more thoughtful use. For instance, the above photo shows a former office space which now hosts booths for international terminal fee. The immigration zone has also been reconfigured, and international standard immigration booths with CCTV cameras have just been installed.
1. New taxi bay
Before, arriving passengers would have to climb a two flights of stairs or a ramp to the departure level to hail a regular taxi. Now, the new taxi bay is now located immediately beside the arrival area. It operates pretty much like how it is done in Singapore, simultaneous boarding of up to ten taxis at a time! Clever!
2. Renovated and expanded toilets
– Existing toilets will be renovated and expanded by 38%. This means there will be more urinals, sinks, and cubicles to accommodate all passengers. World-renowned designers Budji Layug, Royal Pineda and Kenneth Cobunpue were tapped to reflect the design aspirations of the Filipinos. The first renovated toilet, at the domestic arrival area, is scheduled to open this month. The rest will be completed before the end of the year. I am so excited for it, to see if they implemented some of our insights at the recent Airport Users Forum regarding PWD-friendliness.
3. Meeters and Greeters Area
– Family and friends now have a comfortable indoor waiting area that’s fully airconditioned and free of charge.
4. New Information Desk
– New information desk with customer service officers in Cebuano uniform designed by Cary Santiago. These officers have been trained towards competence and friendliness to make sure that they will be able to respond to any query.
5. New Airport clinic
– Passenger medical needs and services are now catered in the new clinic, located near the Engineering office. Emergency cases will be treated free of charge, while a walk-in consultation with the resident doctor costs a minimum fee of P300. The airport now also has a fully-equipped ambulance.
IN THE PIPELINE
1. Exciting dining and shopping outlets
– 2 Jollibee outlets (one in the arrival and another in the departure area), Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Zara, Tumi, and a rejuvenized duty free area are scheduled to open at the Mactan-Cebu airport soon
2. Multi-level parking
– Within twelve months, a multi-level car park directly linked to the terminal building, that can accommodate up to 800 vehicles will be built at the Mactan-Cebu airport.
3. Plaza Premium International Lounge
– Instead of full service carriers building their own lounges, a new lounge to be operated by Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium will soon be built. It will be a common lounge for all airlines. I guess frequent flyer card holders of certain airlines will get free access, while the rest could pay a fee for lounge access. The highlight of the new lounge will be an open kitchen.
4. Baggage Handling
– 3 domestic arrival belts are scheduled to be extended this month.
– All baggage conveying lines are scheduled to be replaced on November.
– The airport will soon employ a modern baggage reconciliation system that will ensure more efficient airline operations
5. Mactan-Cebu Airport will be the first in the Philippines to be certified for mobile boarding pass application
– Work load for ground crew will soon be reduced when the airport introduces boarding pass scanners that will work with an automated gate (using the Veripax system). This will also be beneficial for techie passengers who check-in to their flights using their mobile phones.
The next few months will really be exciting for the Mactan-Cebu airport. And, we are only talking about Terminal 1! What more when Terminal 2 becomes operational in the second half of 2018?