Mystery booths at Manila airport puzzle passengers

Mystery booths at Manila airport puzzle passengers
PHOTO: PDI/ANN

No, they are not fitting rooms and neither are they confessionals.

The curtained booths that sprang up on Tuesday at the departure areas of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) terminals have left passengers puzzled as to what they are exactly.

They are "last look" booths, according to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), private cubicles set up to give departing passengers a final opportunity to ditch items prohibited on flight before they pass through the airport's security screening checkpoints.

The MIAA senior assistant general manager, Vicente Guerzon Jr., said plane passengers could dispose of prohibited articles, including bullets kept either as talismans or souvenirs, with no questions asked.

In recent weeks, airport security personnel have come under fire for allegedly planting bullets inside carry-on luggage and using such transgression for extortion attempts.

Overseas Filipino workers and passengers catching a connecting flight were said to be targeted by perpetrators of the "tanim-bala" (bullet-planting) scam that so alarmed passengers that they resorted to tightly wrapping their luggage in plastic.

Awareness campaign

Guerzon said the last look booths were part of the airport authority's enhanced public awareness campaign on items banned in both carry-on and checked luggage.

But the lack of signage or notice about the booths left passengers mystified and gave rise to speculations.

"Why is there a fitting room here?" passengers were overhead saying as they pushed their trolleys toward Naia Terminal 1's departure area.

Asked what the booth was for, another passenger laughed. "I don't know. A confessional?"

Even most airport workers had no idea about the curtained cubicles.

"They just brought that in this morning. I don't know what it is," a female maintenance worker assigned at the departure area said.

"Isn't there supposed to be a priest inside?" she added, smiling.

Curtains for privacy

Indeed, the last look booths made of varnished wood look very much like confessionals in a Catholic church, with curtains to give users some privacy.

But instead of a seat, the booths are fitted with tables on which passengers can open and examine their luggage-and boxes as disposal bins for security prohibited items.

The booths were set up in the four airport terminals just before the entrance to the queuing areas, and are meant to complement the signage on tarpaulins and TV monitors repeatedly playing English and Filipino reminders on prohibited items.

Signs will be tacked on the "last look" booths to make passengers aware of their purpose, Guerzon said.

The MIAA was also looking into setting up inside airport terminals so-called interrogation rooms with full audio and video recording facilities to prevent dubious transactions and to spare passengers caught with prohibited items from the possibility of being victimized by extortionists, the airport official said.

Details on the establishment of the interrogation rooms were still being finalized, Guerzon added.

 

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