Philippine leader apologises over 'world's worst airport'

Philippine President Benigno Aquino publicly apologised on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, for failures in air conditioning at Manila airport, already named by an online travel guide as the world's worst. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Philippine President Benigno Aquino publicly apologised on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, for failures in air conditioning at Manila airport, already named by an online travel guide as the world's worst. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino publicly apologised on Wednesday for failures in air conditioning at Manila airport, already named by an online travel guide as the world's worst.

The fresh debacle at Terminal 1, used by foreign airlines, came as millions of Filipinos begin travelling for the Easter holidays during one of the hottest months of the year.

"We ask for your pardon and patience," Mr Aquino said in remarks to reporters aired live on national television.

The transportation ministry also issued a separate public apology on Wednesday, on the eve of four-day Easter holidays in the Catholic Philippines. The apologies came amid numerous complaints by irate travellers this week over inadequate air conditioning in some parts of the airport.

Mr Aquino said the air conditioning system of Terminal 1, the oldest of its passenger gateways, was undergoing rehabilitation and some of the units had to be shut off. He said that while the government had tendered for replacement parts in November last year, deliveries would only start in August.

"With the strict rules of government, you cannot just order (an airconditioning unit) today and have it delivered in just 30 days," he said as he made the rounds of Manila's ports and air terminals for safety checks.

The Manila airport's Terminal 1 was rated as the world's worst as of last year, for the second year in a row, by online travel website "The Guide to Sleeping in Airports".

Travellers criticised its "dilapidated facilities", dishonest airport workers - particularly taxi drivers - long waiting times and rude officials in the latest rating. The website had yet to issue its 2014 rankings.

Manila airport authorities have been renovating the terminal, built in 1981, but say the ageing building is handling far more travellers than its intended capacity of six million per year.

Despite the official apologies, some critics were not mollified, using social media to vent their ire. Senator Pia Cayetano, tweeting about the air conditioning problem, said: "Did they have to wait for the president to find a solution?"