A different kind of Airport

10 Jun
Welcome to El Nido Air-Pasture, euh Airport

Welcome to El Nido Air-Pasture, euh Airport

My days were counted – they had only given me 21 days visa at arrival in the Philippines, so I slowly but surely had to make my way back to Manila to take my return flight home… Sigh. Since the road between El Nido and Puerto Princesa was a bit challenging (as we could experience toppling over into the ditch), I decided not to backtrack and take a plane from El Nido, without knowing what to expect. But I certainly didn’t expect arriving in a scene of the ‘Flying Doctors’ TV series.

El Nido airport was sooooo small that I don’t know if I would call it an airport.

Approaching the airport by tricycle

Approaching the airport by tricycle

I guess in the Flying Doctors they call it an airstrip instead I believe. The airstrip was located a scenic 6km drive away from El Nido winding through rice fields cum bamboo huts. The only way to get there was by fixed-price (overrated) tricycle – they must think that anyone that can afford to fly to/from El Nido can also fork out the 200 peso (3,5 euro-prices are relative).

No fooling around - strict access rules

No fooling around - strict access rules

Access to the airport seems to be as easy as getting into my uncle’s cow pasture – you could simply crawl under the barb wire. However there is a gate, and even a security guard (guarding the pasture, euh airport, euh airstrip). The sign reads ‘No ID, no entry’ and I saw it coming when my tricycle driver started probing all his pockets… he didn’t carry any ID. But by the time I had sighed and mentally got ready to walk the remaining mile or two they had negotiated a deal anyway and we went through into this ‘high security’ airport.

A little drive over the runway...

A little drive over the runway...

In order to get to the terminal building we virtually had to drive on the runway. And now I understand why SEAir flies planes that ‘can land both on paved and unpaved runways’, the El Nido one, being one of the last types of runways, or maybe even an ‘overgrown’ runway judging by the gardener cutting the grass.

The SEAir check in counter

The SEAir check in counter

In the distance a little thatched roof appeared, and the thatched roof appeared to be the airport. There were some wooden school desks spread around, with hand painted ‘Security’ or ‘Check in’ on them. Yep, that was the airport ;-) A few meters further in the middle of a flower bed there was a wooden home-made sign with ‘Smoking Area’ on it – even though the whole airport was outdoors. I could build an airport like that myself (quite a difference from the new hyper-modern Bangkok airport).

We were only 2 on the flight (very ecological) – like on the way from Caticlan to Manila. So we were individually coached from the Security Desk (a guy sticking ‘Security’ labels on our luggage) to the check-in where the 2 SEAir staff weighed us together with our luggage, to know where to place us in the plane to stabilise it… Next we were ushered to

Terminal Fee 'office'...

Terminal Fee 'office'...

another desk to pay the ‘Terminal Fee’ (euh, which terminal? Aha the straw roof, I see) of 125 pesos (2€). The woman did not have any change so she got her wallet out to nicely mix her official and personal money. When check-in was completed we could go and sit under the thatched roof and get complimentary drinks (instant coffee or home brewed ice tea) with some rice cakes. Or shop in the 3square meter shop consisting of a few shelves.

There was no boarding call, because there were no loudspeakers and microphones. Instead the SEAir staff just came over to call us personally, and they walked us to the mini propeller aircraft (same 19 seater as before). As soon as we walked onto the tarmac, we were bid goodbye by 5 women in traditional dress and a karibu (buffalo) with cart, who sang us a goodbye song (the women that is, not the buffalo). Very sweet, very over the top traditional (touristy).

One pilot per passenger

One pilot per passenger

So what does it take to get 2 people from El Nido to Manila:

  • 2 tricycle drivers (as we came on different tricycles)
  • 1 guard at the entrance of the airport
  • 1 big straw thatched roof
  • 1 security guard checking the bags
  • 2 SEAir staff doing the check in (and one trainee)
  • 1 guy doing the handling (carrying our 2 pieces of luggage to the plane)
  • 1 woman serving the Nescafé and rice cakes (and manning the souvenir shop)
  • 1 gardener cutting the grass on the runway
  • 5 singing ladies in traditional dress
  • 1 karibu (buffalo) with cart
  • 2 pilots

and all of that for 6200 pesos (105€) per passenger – so I dread to ask how much the different people in this chain earn – or how inefficient or un-cost-effective the El Nido flights are…

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A different kind of Airport

ElNido, Manila, airport, flight, pics

10 June

My days were counted – they had only given me 21 at arrival in the Philippines, so I slowly but surely had to make my way back to Manila to take my return flight home… Sigh. Since the road between El Nido and Puerto Princesa was a bit challenging (as we could experience toppling over into the ditch), I decided not to backtrack and take a plane from El Nido, without knowing what to expect. But I certainly didn’t expect arriving in a scene of the ‘Flying Doctors’ TV series.

El Nido airport was sooooo small that I don’t know if I would call it an airport. I guess in the Flying Doctors they call it an airstrip instead I believe. The airstrip was located a scenic 6km drive away from El Nido winding through rice fields cum bamboo huts. The only way to get there was by fixed-price (overrated) tricycle – they must think that anyone that can afford to fly to/from El Nido can also fork out the 200 peso (3,5 euro).

Access to the airport seems to be as easy as getting into my uncle’s cow pasture – you could simply crawl under the barb wire. However there is a gate, and even a security guard (guarding the pasture, euh airport, euh airstrip). The sign reads ‘No ID, no entry’ and I saw it coming when my tricycle driver started probing all his pockets… he didn’t carry any ID. But by the time I had sighed and mentally got ready to walk the remaining mile or two they had negotiated a deal anyway and we went through into this ‘high security’ airport.

In order to get to the terminal building we virtually had to drive on the runway. And now I understand why SEAir flies planes that ‘can land both on paved and unpaved runways’, the El Nido one, being one of the last types of runways, or maybe even an ‘overgrown’ runway judging by the gardeners cutting the grass.

In the distance a little thatched roof appeared, and the thatched roof appeared to be the airport. There were some wooden school desks spread around, with hand painted ‘Security’ or ‘Check in’ on them. Yep, that was the airport ;-) A few meters further in the middle of a flower bed there was a wooden home-made sign with ‘Smoking Area’ on it – even though the whole airport was outdoors. I could build an airport like that myself (quite a difference from the new hyper-modern Bangkok airport).

We were only 2 on the flight (very ecological) – like on the way from Caticlan to Manila. So we were individually coached from the Security Desk (a guy sticking ‘Security’ labels on our luggage) to the check-in where the 2 SEAir staff weighed us together with our luggage, to know where to place us in the plane to stabilise it… Next we were ushered to another desk to pay the ‘Terminal Fee’ (euh, which terminal? Aha the straw roof, I see) of 125 pesos (2€). The woman did not have any change so she got her wallet out to nicely mix her official and personal money. When check-in was completed we could go and sit under the thatched roof and get complimentary drinks (instant coffee or home brewed ice tea) with some rice cakes. Or shop in the 3square meter shop consisting of a few shelves.

There was no boarding call, because there were no loudspeakers and microphones. Instead the SEAir staff just came over to call us personally, and they walked us to the mini propeller aircraft (same 19 seater as before). As soon as we walked onto the tarmac, we were bid goodbye by 5 women in traditional dress and a karibu (buffalo) with cart, who sang us a goodbye song (the women that is, not the buffalo). Very sweet, very over the top traditional (touristy).

So what does it take to get 2 people from El Nido to Manila:

2 tricycle drivers (as we came on different tricycles)

1 guard at the entrance of the airport

1 big straw thatched roof

1 security guard checking the bags

2 SEAir staff doing the check in (and one trainee)

1 guy doing the handling (carrying our 2 pieces of luggage to the plane)

1 woman serving the Nescafé and rice cakes (and manning the souvenir shop)

1 gardener cutting the grass on the runway

5 singing ladies in traditional dress

1 karibu (buffalo) with cart

2 pilots

and all of that for 6200 pesos (105€) per passenger – so I dread to ask how much the different people in this chain earn – or how inefficient or un-cost-effective the El Nido flights are.

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