CEBU, Philippines – The consortium that now operates the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Administration (MCIAA) says Cebu could become an alternative gateway for both domestic and international flights.
The US$326 million (P15.61 billion) Mactan-Cebu International Airport expansion and management project will help ease air traffic congestion in Manila according to Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, chief executive of GMR-Megawide consortium.
Harrison also said they expect passenger traffic to increase to 8.9 million by 2018, “Right now, we have 220 daily flights but we expect the volume to increase to 350 by 2018 when the Terminal 2 building is completed.”
At present, Cebu has an annual passenger volume of 4.7 million. The country’s main gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila currently struggles to handle more than 700 flights a day, making it one of Asia’s busiest airports.
There have been small alterations done, but have resulted in significant changes. For example, the arrival gate was moved to a bigger area formerly used as the entrance of airport personnel. The really long queues at the former entrance have all but disappeared.
The check-in area is currently undergoing a facelift, with more counters and wider spaces. This also aids in eliminating passenger congestion, and is a perfect example of how space is managed so that passengers are able to move more conveniently inside the departure area.
Also being tested were the electronic entry gates that could read electronic boarding passes. This, together with the self-service check-in kiosks, brings the standard of operations at the Mactan Terminal 1 departure area to far superior levels than any of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals.
Huge LED display panels that announce airplane arrival and departure status are visible at strategic locations of the airport, and provide useful and timely information to passengers.
But changes are not just cosmetic. The back room operations and equipment are being improved. A luggage carousel that had not been functioning for five years is currently under repair, and its subsequent operations will help tremendously in moving passenger cargo.
Airport terminal staff, not just those greeting and facilitating people movement at the check-in counters, and the pre-departure and arrival areas, but also those responsible for luggage, are being empowered to enhance passenger services.
GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC) – which is 60% owned by listed Filipino construction company Megawide Construction Corporation and 40% by Bangalore-based GMR Infrastructure Limited – signed in April last year a 25-year concession agreement to manage and upgrade Mactan airport.
Further improvements should be in place by 2018.
In addition, the Filipino-Indian consortium also transferred the taxi terminals allowing passengers to pick up their cabs right outside the arrival area.
All these improvements, GMR Megawide said, were introduced at no cost to the passengers. “We want to make Cebu not only a destination but a gateway to both the Philippines and the rest of the world,” Harrison added.
He said the immediate goal is to make Mactan airport a resort airport. “Tourism starts at the airport. Tourists should feel that they are here at the moment they touch down,” the 48-year-old executive said at a dinner for a handful of reporters at the posh Plantation Bay resort.
Cebu first gained international prominence when it was promoted as an “Island in the Pacific” in the 1970s.
Back then, the bulk of tourists then were Japanese. Today, tourists are more multi-national with Koreans being the top arrivals in Cebu.
More Flights, OFWs
GMR-Megawide said it also plans to tap into the huge overseas Filipino worker (OFW) market. Although 34% of international passengers are OFWs, less than 5 % use Cebu as exit point. Harrison added that GMR-Megawide is investing in a 120-capacity dormitory for increased OFWs departing from Cebu.
The consortium is also trying to lure back Cathay Airways, which previously suspended Cebu flights.
“We have come up with a routes development plan and are sending teams to make pitches to the airlines that Cebu could be a viable and profitable alternative gateway,” he said, that the airport will soon open direct Philippine Airline flights to San Francisco, Osaka in Japan and Dubai.
New Terminal, New Runway
GMR-Megawide consortium outbid 6 others in cornering the management of MCIAA. The multi-billion peso project includes a second terminal building adjacent to the existing one.
With construction already under way, GMR-Megawide expects the Terminal 2 building to be completed in 30 months.
Harrison said that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is already planning to build an additional runway to meet the growing passenger and air traffic in Cebu.
Harrison pointed out however that this is unlikely to be completed before 2022.
“I have no idea when the government will do it. But yes, we later will need another runway if we reach our targets,” he said.
Source: Edwin Espejo, Rappler.com