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New Cebu airport terminal leaves good impression on passengers

By Jose Santino Bunachita | Philippine Daily Inquirer

LAPU-LAPU CITY — It rained hard for hours before the scheduled opening of the world’s first and friendliest resort airport.

Hours after the downpour, the warmth was palpable inside the new Terminal 2 of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) although it was already past 3 a.m.

The familiar drum beats of Sinulog and dancers clad in violet and gold suits filled the arrival hall of the new terminal as they welcomed the first arriving passengers into the terminal — some 180 passengers aboard China Eastern Airlines Flight MU 5023 from Shanghai.

Instead of looking lethargic and sleepy from the early morning flight, the passengers were wide awake, with some even dancing along to the Sinulog beat.

Welcome gifts

Others were busy collecting their baggage in the carousel which was also filled with boxes of treats like otap (oval-shaped pastry puff cookies), dried mangoes and chicharon (pork cracklings) prepared by airport officials as a welcome gift to passengers.

Native chocolates and chocolate drinks were handed by The Chocolate Chamber.

“It’s a very nice feeling,” said Carl Edmonson, a 59-year-old American married to a Cebuana and one of the passengers.

“I’m surprised,” he said. “The terminal got bigger,” he added.

Despite minor hitches and concerns, airport authorities said they were satisfied with the first day of the P17.5-billion terminal’s commercial operations.

Louie Ferrer, president of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), private operator of the MCIA, said everything went according to plan.

‘Little surprises’

“So far, so good,” he said. “There are little surprises,” he added.

He admitted that the entire process was not perfect, though.

Among these was the entire terminal is not yet 100 percent finished. Some areas have yet to be furnished.

Ferrer said passengers should expect more improvements, especially aesthetically, in the coming weeks and months.

Lawyer Steve Dicdican, MCIA general manager, said some areas that needed further improvement was the unfamiliarity of passengers with the high-tech X-ray machine.

“Some were not able to properly use it,” he said. “It’s a learning experience,” he added.

First flight out

Dicdican said he was impressed by the welcome preparations at the arrival area.

The new terminal opened at midnight for the first flight out, a China Eastern Airlines flight bound to Shanghai.

Among the first passengers to admire the departure area and its amenities were 46-year-old Joy Peralta, her 49-year-old husband Rodrigo and their son.

“It’s really of international standards,” said Joy, a Cebuana who works as a nurse in Chicago.

“I have been to other airports and this is comparable,” she said.

She said she liked the new plastic chairs in boarding gates which she said she preferred over cold, metal chairs in the old terminal.

Inaugurated by President Duterte on June 7, the MCIA Terminal 2 was one of the government’s flagship projects under its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program although it was started by the Aquino administration.

12.5M passengers

With its unique design of undulating wooden roofs, Terminal 2 was envisioned to demonstrate the “warmth and friendliness” of local culture, place and people.

It was designed by Hong-Kong based architectural firm Integrated Design Associates Ltd. with Filipino designers.

It spanned 65,600 square meters and was the dedicated terminal for all international flights departing from and arriving in Cebu. It was expected to increase the MCIA’s current passenger capacity to 12.5 million a year.

Considered the central gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao, the MCIA is the second largest airport facility in the country.

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