E-gates, eTravel woes

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

There’s really no lack of surprises here in the Philippines, take your pick and you’ll get it. Sometimes, things are so smooth, it leaves you so pleasantly surprised you’re almost dumbfounded. Sometimes, things just don’t work and yet it still surprises us.

Take, for instance, the country’s main gateway. It’s been written about numerous times, immortalized in travel articles and etched in the frustrated hearts and heads of travelers and yet there are times when we still find it in chaos.

Last week, I went to Terminal 3 – which, by the way, has become the runaway winner as the most chaotic terminal these days – and the mayhem begins long before you get inside. I was at the parking area to fetch a family member but lo and behold, even as the plane was wheels down as scheduled, he was only able to get out after an hour and a half even if he didn’t have check-in luggage.

The culprit? Long lines at the Immigration e-gates because while they were supposed to be faster, they weren’t. Some e-gates weren’t even working. Passengers had to go back to the usual Immigration booths.

It turns out, the e-gates at Terminal 3 are a hit and miss of sorts. Some gates work and sometimes they don’t. This shouldn’t be the case. We need efficiency all throughout our airports because for arriving visitors, the gateway is the first thing they see in the country and if things aren’t working, then it’s not exactly the best welcome we can offer.


And then there are still complaints about eTravel. I had written about this before and DICT Undersecretary Dave Almirol had already responded, which I very much appreciated.

Unfortunately, there are still complaints about what passengers say is an unnecessary requirement.

A letter sender, for instance, was traveling to the Philippines recently and found himself stressed out because of the eTravel requirement.

Here is his story:

“Until I stepped up to the immigration officer at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I was blissfully unaware of eTravel/Philippine Information System.

“The immigration officer waved me away, pointing to a poster with a link to https://etravel.gov.ph/.”

A struggle followed: to get his mobile data roaming working, create an eTravel account and fill in a new travel declaration.

“It was a nightmare – which was further exacerbated by web-app peculiarities, freezes and timeouts, flaky internet connection, etc. Although I’m tech/internet-savvy, multiple attempts to complete this process all ended in failure. After about 20 minutes, someone (presumably a government employee) effectively took over and completed the process for me,” said the reader.

He said that eTravel probably works well enough for regular users, but it must be causing significant harm to the tourism industry.

“It asks too many redundant questions,” he said, an observation I strongly share and have long relayed this to Usec. Almirol.

This is what the letter sender observed:

• “Name of Airline” – This is available from the flight number, so this question is unnecessary.

• “Origin, Country of Origin” – This information is available from the next question: “Origin, Airport of Origin,” so this question is unnecessary.

• “Origin, Date of Departure” – This information is available from the flight number + Date of Arrival, so this question is unnecessary.

• “Origin, Date of Departure” – The required format (MM/DD/YYYY) is not one of the international formats (YYYY-MM-DD, or DD/MM/YYYY), so it will trip up most foreigners.  Comment applies to all dates.

• “Origin, Date of Return” – This question assumes that, upon leaving the Philippines, every passenger will return to their original point of departure. But this would not be the case if the passenger’s onward travel plans include other destinations.

• “Destination, Airport of Destination” – For arrival declarations, the question should be “Airport of Arrival.” Indeed, a separate question asks “Date of Arrival” and “Destination upon arrival in the Philippines” – which acknowledges that this ‘destination’ is not the final destination.

• “Destination, Airport of Destination” – This field does not recognize “Manila” and most foreigners would not know to answer this question with “Ninoy Aquino International Airport T3.” If a passenger types “Manila” this field should recommend some suitable answers.

Another horror story

Unfortunately, this was not the only unusual horror story I heard about eTravel. Another complaint came to my attention.

This time from a family who had planned a four-week vacation which included a Philippine leg.

They were going to board the first flight out of Dulles International Airport in Virginia for a trip to the Philippines. They were scheduled to fly to Korea for a connecting flight to Manila.

They arrived at the Dulles airport hours before their 6 a.m. flight. However, when it was time for boarding – around 5:30 a.m. – they were told they had some problems and could not be allowed to board, because they didn’t have a QC code for eTravel.

With only 30 minutes to fill up their application, they unfortunately missed their flight.

“What an inconvenience for something that is no longer significant at this point in time. How come no one even bothered to remove that eTravel requirement?”

I, too, have the same question and I hope we all get the answers soon.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with