DOTr disputes 'worst business class airport' tag on NAIA

Published May 28, 2022, 5:00 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) questioned the credibility and the authority of an international group which branded the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as one of the world’s worst business class airport.

First, the DOTr said in a statement that there was no recent review or ratings from the website that concerns the NAIA. The last ratings conducted, it said, was in 2020.

The DOTr was reacting to the recent news reports which gave unfavorable rating to the NAIA. The news reports cited Bounce Luggage Storage as the source.

But the DOTr said the fact that the Bounce Luggage Storage has no operation whatsoever in the Philippines makes the ratings questionable.

Bounce Luggage Storage is a luggage storage business that operates in several airports in the United States (US) and Asia. In the supposed review, it reportedly quoted the aggregated reviews in and Skytrax as the basis.

“An extensive search on the website showed no reviews nor ratings concerning the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It is also unknown when exactly the rating was done but a check with the feedbacks concerning the NAIA were dated 2020 as the latest, with most reviews and complaints coming from transiting international passengers who did not use the business class lounges,” the statement read.

According to the ‘study,’ NAIA got the worst scoring for three different categories: its number of destinations, on-time performance, and rating from Skytrax.

The department then issued a point by point clarification of the categories used.

First, the DOTr said explained that the NAIA is a destination airport and not a hub airport, the reason why there are not much business class lounges and onward destinations.

“Passengers using business class lounges are those passing thru for brief business trips or for stop over to take their onward/connecting flight to their final destinations. Airlines primarily determine their need to put up business class lounges for their customers. Business class lounges abound in hub airports, which NAIA is not,” the statement read.

Second, it said it is highly implausible that the on-time performance contributed to the NAIA’s supposedly worst rating.

The department then cited the report of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) for the last quarter of 2019 (before the COVID-19 pandemic hit) that the airlines’ running On-Time Performance (OTP) average was 83 percent, which is way higher than the previous OTP of 40 percent in 2016.

And third, the DOTr said the Skytrax website showed that NAIA had a three-star rating.

The 3-star rating is applied where staff service standards or the production facilities are fair or average.

The website states that Skytrax applies ratings between 1-Star and 5-Star for up to 800 customer-facing areas of airport products and services. This spans 30 customer contact points from the airport website to terminal hotel quality. The rating methodology is unified and consistent for the industry, and all airports, from the largest hubs to small regional facilities, and assessed using the same base criteria.

“Ratings are based on the front-line customer experience on the end-to-end journey through an airport. In fact, in 2018, NAIA made it to the top 10 of the World’s Most Improved Airports based on the 2018 World Airport Awards, also conducted by Skytrax. Since then, we have already undertaken more improvements in our facilities all geared to improve the entire passenger experience of a traveler,” the statement read.

“While the ‘study’ shows unfavorable rating and unsubstantiated claims about NAIA, it cannot be denied that significant improvements have been carried out in the country’s main gateway in the past six years under the Duterte administration,” it added.

The DOTr said there were a lot of improvements at the NAIA in the last five years, including an end to the the infamous “laglag-bala” extortion scheme and “bukas-bagahe” or baggage pilferage.

“We should also not turn a blind eye to the remarkable developments reached that aim to improve the services at the airport, such as the rehabilitation and upgrade of the airport facilities, including its terminals and runways,” the statement read.