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Security Theater at NAIA Terminal 2

Security Theater at NAIA Terminal 2

Security theater is a derisive term for security measures which employ lots of busy bodies checking all sorts of things but which do very little to actually keep the public safe.

Security theater is alive and thriving in the Philippines. As an example, I give you NAIA Terminal 2.

Before even getting to the airport you must pass a check point stationed IMG_20160111_055350028_TOPat the airport’s perimeter entrance. This check point consists of a bored guard waving cars through. It still causes traffic to slow down though and a line of vehicles to form as the checkpoint naturally constricts the space available for vehicles to pass.


1. Vehicle checkpoint passed – traffic slowed

Once your car drops you off at the departure area you make your way to the Terminal entrance where there is another bored guard waiting for you. This time he checks your ticket to make sure you’re a bona fide passenger and that you’re at the right terminal.

The Manila airport has 5 different Terminals, with no pedestrian or bus access between them. If you get dropped off at the wrong terminal you literally have to hail a cab to bring you to the right one.

As most tickets are printed at home nowadays, and the guard can’t make sense of all the gobbledygook on the ticket, this is yet another pointless security measure. Literally anyone could print up a fake ticket to get past this step. (BTW, least you think I’m hating on the guard let me assure you that I also don’t understand IMG_20160111_0559271804/5 of what’s on my ticket. It takes all of my brain cells to decipher basic things like the date and time of my flight.)

2. Ticket showed – guard checkpoint past

Once past the guard but before the check in counters you are subjected to the first array of luggage x-ray machines. Naturally a queue forms here as well as you have the usual assortment of people pawing themselves looking for keys and spare change to throw into the provided trays.

Every 30 seconds you have a security person haranguing you to bring out all cellphones and electronic devices.

I’ve traveled a little bit and it’s really only in Manila where you find an x-ray check even before you reach the check in counter.

As Filipinos are not especially good at lining up you will always find that jerk who jumps the line. Observing how we behave lining up for the machine is actually more revealing than what the machine reveals about our luggage.

There are only 2 machines to scan everyone entering the Terminal so the security guys manning the machines don’t have a lot of time to look at each scan. Of course the less time they have to look the more likely it is that something objectionable can slip in.

Given the very brief time window to look at each scan, this checkpoint is pretty much useless as well. IMG_20160111_055921628

3. First x-ray done – Three checkpoints passed so far

After you check in the security guys realized that this may be their last chance to frisk up passengers. So for the climax of the show you get a 2 for 1. Right before entering the Terminal waiting area you have a guard check your boarding pass and then right after that is another x-ray check.

The level up in security is quite evident at this last checkpoint as they now have 3 x-ray machines scanning people’s luggage.

4. Boarding passed checked, luggage checked, person checked

One goes to the theater to be entertained. The show at NAIA Terminal 2 though is just annoying. I would skip it if I could.

Free Wifi Hotspots at NAIA Terminal 2

Free Wifi Hotspots at NAIA Terminal 2

Wifi is considered a necessity these days, some going so far as arguing it’s a basic human right. (That would make it equal to other essential human requirements such as food and shelter.)

Getting a free wireless connection is pretty ubiquitous abroad (public parks in Switzerland have free wifi) but it’s still rare in Philippine public spaces.

I was pleasantly surprised then that free wifi does exist at Manila’s airport (well, NAIA Terminal 2 at least) and even more shocking, it works pretty well.

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