EVERY year Skytrax Research, a London-based specialist research advisor to the air-transport industry, gives out its World Airport Awards to the best airports on the planet.
The world’s top five airports have one common denominator. You can fly from South Korea to Hong Kong, then to Singapore, and then to Germany and the Netherlands, and land at those five airports, all of which are structured to make a profit.
The corporate composition varies—from being privately owned to being under a government-controlled corporation to being a hybrid of private/public ownership—but all must show an operating profit without relying on government subsidies.
The wonderful thing about a company that must turn in a profit is that it depends on customer satisfaction to generate revenues. Once the revenues come in, it must prudently spend the money to make a profit.
While there are those who want all public-service companies, like airports, to be government-owned, the profit incentive minimizes waste and provides funds so that bathrooms actually smell good and airplane-navigation equipment works effectively all the time. Profits build new runways and upgrade facilities, so that travelers may want to come to the country where that top airport is found.
Would it be surprising to learn, then, that the worst airports in the world are all government-owned and not expected to make a profit?
Recently, the Public-Private Partnership Center said the government will auction off the redevelopment, operations and maintenance of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by mid-2015.
That potential privatization will first be subjected to a feasibility study that will hopefully give us more details. However, the idea has merit if the government can avoid turning it into a failure.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. After 30 years of operations, the Manila International Airport Authority has not performed according to expectations, even under six different administrations. The airport is losing money. Its customer service is substandard most of the time. There has never been enough money for expansion and improvement. Appointment to the position of general manager is essentially a political one.
Privatizing the redevelopment, operations and maintenance of the airport is not the final solution, but it is a step to turn things around for the better. We have an international airport where the infrastructure and corporate structure was designed for the last century, and it shows.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano