Sun, Jun 12, 2016 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Action needed on the airport crisis

As main gateways to a nation, airports are where visitors get their first and final impressions of a nation. The quality of an airport’s services and facilities indicates a nation’s level of development and plays a major role in shaping visitors’ views of the nation.

In terms of the quality of its services and facilities, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has long been an embarrassment for Taiwanese, and the recent flooding was the last straw and provoked a public outcry. Instead of waiting for someone else to solve the problem, it is important that the government immediately takes up the heavy responsibility of reshaping the airport.

The embarrassing incident at the airport occurred in the morning of Thursday last week, when sudden torrential rain flooded the roads to the airport terminals, as well as the underground level of Terminal Two, and on top of that caused a power outage. Following the incident, there has been an outpouring of complaints from passengers at the airport. Due to the way the crisis was handled, the flooding caused more damage than it should have. The previous and current governments should share the responsibility for reviewing the problems and coming up with solutions.

Video footage from 2007 showing former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — at the time still a presidential candidate — criticizing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for allowing the airport to fall in global rankings has recently resurfaced.

The video, which, ironically, shows Ma saying that he is so angry at the situation of the airport that he wants to cry, serves as a stark contrast to the airport’s current situation, nine years after he made the comments.

Instead of an improved airport, the public found a politician who cannot honor his words with actions, because he cares more about his imagined place in history than making contributions.

The public does not want to see the government repeat the mistakes of its predecessors; and it is even less desirable to see a government blame its predecessor for the poor conditions of the airport four or eight years from now as the service quality at the airport continues to deteriorate.

On Tuesday, the government approved the resignation of Taoyuan International Airport Corp (TIAC) chairman Samuel Lin (林鵬良) and terminated the employment of TIAC president David Fei (費鴻鈞). The state-owned TIAC has long had many problems, ranging from internal management to coordination with other agencies. To fully solve the problems, TIAC must work with the central and local governments. Until it does, effective emergency measures are key to damage control, which was clearly missing in the recent incident.

The first reaction to an emergency situation, such as the one on Thursday — which was primarily caused by rain, but made much worse after TIAC made a series of mistakes — should be neither rage nor finger-pointing, but rather to work out a solution to reduce the passengers’ inconvenience.

However, people found the outraged Premier Lin Chuan (林全) demanding to know who was responsible for the construction of the airport, and while TIAC claimed that the Pusin River (埔心溪) was the main reason for the flooding, the Taoyuan City Government blamed the ongoing construction of an airport runway.

While everyone did what they believed to be the right thing to do in a frenzy, no one saw to restoring the power and air-conditioner operation at the airport. As a result, even though repairing the power system and air-conditioners should have been a priority, the temperature at Terminal Two was not back to comfortable levels until 5pm on Sunday last week, four days after the flooding. The delay exacerbated the damage in terms of scope and intensity, and all the while the public has been judging the government’s ability to handle the crisis.

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