Numb in Manila

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on December 27, 2007

Immigration SNAFU

My erstwhile fellow blogger and buddy Paul Bograd called earlier. He was standing in an immigration line at the fast-deteriorating Terminal I in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, he said, that was backed up past the Duty Free counters. If you haven’t been through Terminal I recently, you might assume that the long line is the result of a massive influx of visitors during the holiday season. But you’d be wrong, because the lines are pretty much always backed up.

Forcing arriving visitors to spend an hour or more in a slow-moving immigration queue in a poorly air conditioned terminal is disgraceful considering the efficiency with which immigration formalities are handled in neighboring countries, especially Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. On the other hand, the immigration SNAFU doesn’t get much worse than the process in LAX for visitors; and the process at Narita is so bad I’m convinced that the Japanese use immigration to discourage tourists from ever returning again.

Oh, an update from Paul. One hour in line and he says he’s no closer to the counter. That is bad. Manila’s immigration authorities must have adapted the Narita strategy to get rid of those pesky travelers and their foreign exchange.

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