PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 24) - The imposition of a substantial hike in the "terminal facility charges" at Jackson's International Airport would be the stuff of comic opera if it wasn't so serious.

Nothing the Civil Aviation Authority executive director Andrew Ogil has said can remotely justify this latest slap in the face of the traveling public.

The most Mr Ogil could manage was to say that the money was needed to pay the airport security guards and for the installation of more sophisticated security check-in machines.

These "facilities" are not the responsibility of the traveling public, Mr Ogil.

They are the responsibility of the organization you head.

To try and justify doubled charges by parroting the "user-pays" line is in a word, nonsense.

The user asks for neither of these "facilities." They are installed to protect the airport, and only incidentally those who use it.

We challenge Mr Ogil to reveal how much per fortnight these "professional security guards" will be paid, the nature of their specialized airport training, and where he managed to recruit them.

We're prepared to bet their wages will average K120 or less per fortnight.

And the security machines are a one-off installation, and not being purchased every day of the week.

What are the other "facilities" at this barren airport that gobble up so much money?

At K60 per head, even a sparsely populated Boeing flying overseas out of Jackson's will harvest an income of some K6,000 per flight.

Not bad for an airport that is an international disgrace, offering the traveling public zero-level refreshments, tacky duty free shops and an air of never having been developed since it was built.

As for the new imposition of K10 each for domestic travelers, it's a wonder that the minister in charge of civil aviation can raise his head and meet the eyes of his fellow countrymen.

Air Niugini's domestic fares are well beyond the pockets of most would-be travelers, and the hefty new tax of K10 only worsens the situation.

How can CAA treat Papua New Guineans in this way?

And why is it that other international airports can cope without these extraneous charges, airports that offer the traveler a wonderland of shopping, relaxation, hot showers between flights, luxurious waiting lounges, fleets of impeccable taxis at the door, and a sense of comfortable travel?

Mr Ogil acknowledges that "the country" is going through "tough economic times", but apparently makes no connection between "the country" and its desperately poor inhabitants.

The Somare government should immediately step-in and put a halt to this thinly-disguised attempt to boost consolidated revenue.

And we'll make a further wager - we greatly doubt if the K50 an average PNG home-going family must find in order to take to the air will generate so much as one more piece of toilet paper for the airport's notoriously filthy and ill-equipped rest rooms.

If CAA's budget cannot be made to stretch to the maintenance of airport facilities, privatize the place, and sell it to a professional firm with experience in running terminals.

We would see the sudden development of all manner of facilities, and a new and courteous staff running Jackson's.

Certainly there would be no more running the gauntlet of arrogant security guards at the terminal entrances, and no more parking in virtually inaccessible parking lots and walking through pouring rain to enter the airport.

It is a curious phenomenon that we can train pilots to fly the latest jets, but we can't get our act together and manage an airport.

If these irresponsible charges remain, despite massive public opposition, then build them into the ticket price.

Don't leave the already harassed international traveler, or his domestic counterpart to queue to pay this blood money over the counter in an airport shop.

We have not seen such an amateurish system anywhere else in the world.

Or is the CAA office and its staff so arrogant that they simply don't care what the traveling public thinks?

If these charges go ahead, you can be sure that recovered economy or not, they will become a permanent part of the burden on the people of PNG and our guests.

Get rid of these completely unjustified charges before we make complete fools of ourselves in the eyes of the world.

October 27, 2003

The National:


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