Clark International Airport (formerly Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) is relatively small and the nearest airport to Manila. But because of the airline traffic at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, this is being groomed to be an alternate transport hub.
Regardless of its name (“Macapagal” is after all a nemesis of this “vindictive” administration), I hope the government is sensible enough to develop this small town airport before it becomes another nightmare like NAIA.
Passing through here recently, I saw the bad signs of congestion which will worsen in the coming years as budget travel gets most popular with people. In my earlier post, I narrated how I travelled from HK to Manila in a record one hour 20 minutes with SEAIR. It turns out I would encounter the worst traffic on land and it was there at the immigration counter itself where me and fellow passengers lined up for almost two hours just to have our passports stamped.
Even the immigration officer in front of me revealed that they were working overtime already. He blamed it on the fact that five carriers arrived all at the same time that night and the resulting deluge of passengers was more than the airport or its personnel could handle.
Aside from the thoughtless scheduling of flights, this airport is just too small to handle the services of nine airlines at the moment – seven of which are the popular low-cost carriers like Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, SEAIR, Dragonair and PAL Express. There are two big airlines coming out of Clark – Asiana and Emirates (to launch flights in October). So yes, an expansion is in order. According to the news, Terminal 2 which will expand the present runway by 4000 meters is in the pipeline. There’s also a firm from Kuwait which is touted to develop Clark’s Terminal 3 and build three parallel runways.
Honestly, am still thinking whether it’s worth it to go to Clark just for the cheap fares for all the trouble it takes to get there. During my last trip, I personally drove my car through the long stretch of North Luzon Expressway and almost lost control of the brakes after a speeding jerk in a four-wheel drive cut through me. This was at the unholy hour of three in the morning because I was supposed to check in at 5am to catch my flight at seven!@$!
Otherwise, you have the option to take the bus to Pampanga from any of the terminals in Manila (EDSA, Cubao or Trinoma) and the thought of lugging around a luggage in a bus station is just the height of discomfort, methinks. Not to mention encountering traffic along the way.
And this is all because our alternate airport doesn’t have the infrastructure to comfortably transport passengers from Point A to Point B. Something in the likes of HK’s Airport Express or Shanghai’s Maglev trains.
Tourism is indeed more trying in the Philippines.
Early morning shot of a plane in Clark with Mt. Arayat in the background. I thought this was nice 🙂