LAPU-LAPU CITY, MACTAN — Up until 2017, the Philippines’ main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, has consistently been in the list of the world’s worst airports.
Other airports around the country, more than 80 of them including in 15 major cities, have neither been exactly sources of pride.
The opening of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2 (MCIA-T2) on July 1 is changing that, lifting Philippine airport standards in terms of both look and convenience.
The MCIA-T2 — designed by Hong Kong-based architectural firm Integrated Design Associates Ltd. (IDA) in partnership with local architects and designers Budji Layug, Royal Pineda, and Kenneth Cobunpue — is intended to make those passing through feel like they are making a beach resort stop, where they can relax, wine and dine, and shop.
For departing passengers, the airport-resort experience starts with a passage through the 19-meter link bridge with its striking terrazzo flooring with mother of pearl shards that glisten when struck by sunlight.
The locally sourced pearl inlay evokes an image of Cebu’s beaches, consistent with the overall T2 design inspired by the Philippine landscape.
One noticeable thing, though, at the departure level is the absence of plants — a trade-off for the extensive use of wood in the building.
“This is the first (airport) structure that used so much wood. No airport anywhere in the world has used these kinds of material. The glulam (glued-laminated timber wood from Austria) is much stronger and I think 20% to 30% more expensive than the usual steel and has a life of 200 years. But every 50 years, it has to be polished with a certain special liquid to cure the wood,” Aines Librodo, head of Airline Marketing and Tourism Development of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), said during a media walkthrough of the terminal hosted by airline Cebu Pacific.
Ms. Librodo said the airport management does not want to risk the possibility of that termites from live plants could damage the wood. MCIA-T2 is a project of GMCAC, a consortium of Megawide Construction Corp. and Bangalore-based GMR Infrastructure Ltd.
The timber arches, meanwhile, are inspired by the waves of the seas around Mactan Island.
For convenience, MCIA-T2 has done away with luggage x-rays at the entrance as practiced in most international airports around the world.
“In all of the airports in the Philippines, upon entry, you always have to lift your luggage and put it in the x-ray and then you go and lift your luggage again to bring them at the check-in counters. Here we don’t have that because we want convenience to all passengers. Statistics say that very few of the passengers have irregular stuff normally prohibited for check-in. So why do we penalize 95% of the passengers when only a few have these irregular stuff?” Ms. Librodo said.
Check-in luggages go through a high-speed baggage handling system equipped with a four-level inline screening technology to ensure that these do not contain restricted items.
The terminal’s washrooms, usually the ultimate turn-off point in local airports, have lush moss walls sourced from Italy. The moss wall creates an indoor garden effect and is also functional as it helps stabilize humidity and improve air quality.
The 65,500-square meter (sq.m) T2, dedicated to international flights, has a duty-free shopping area of about 895 sq.m with a wide range of retailers.
For dining, T2’s food and beverage hub is operated by British firm SSP Group plc, which is present in more than a 100 airports globally.
The F&B selections in Cebu include Camden, Ritazza To Go, Burger King, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Cabin Bar, Nippon Ramen, Bonchon, and Asian Kitchen.
Other terminal features are The Spa at Cebu and the Plaza Premium waiting lounge.
Getting to and from the MCIA-T2, with Metro Cebu’s worsening road congestion, could still prove to be a frustrating segment of one’s travel. But it certainly is a comfort and uplifting to have a stop at a high-standard airport. — Maya M. Padillo