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Today we have a submission from former LiP writer, John Miele. Thank you John for providing this great article, it will be helpful, I am sure, for many readers!
Back when I was a regular writer on LiP, I wrote a number of articles about NAIA and navigating through the airport in Manila. Those articles are way out of date, and I was thinking about how much has changed since they were written, so, an update.
I probably fly more often than 99% of LiP readers. Indeed, I am in and out of NAIA at least four or five times per month, sometimes more often. NAIA often gets a bad rap in the press, and some of it is justified, but it is, by no means, the worst in the world. In fact, the new improvements have really streamlined getting in an out of the airport and made waiting much more bearable.
So, terminal by terminal
The renovations are pretty much complete. Much more seating. New and reasonably clean restrooms. Much more organized immigration queues. Better lighting. Much better check-in area. More food choices and options. Overall, a huge improvement over the previous incarnation. Additionally, several international airlines have moved to Terminal 3 (ANA, Emirates, KLM, Singapore… I may have forgotten one or two), therefore easing the congestion somewhat. Some of the incredibly annoying taxi touts have been pushed back from the immediate arrivals area. Overall, a 100% improvement.
Philippine Airlines only. Desperately needed renovations are just beginning. I recall in an early article mentioning the terminal that it was easy. This used to be the case. PAL is now growing again and the lack of restrooms, seating, and creature comforts is becoming obvious. (Tip… Use the restrooms outside the terminal… They are new, large, and spotlessly clean.) In my opinion, I avoid it whenever possible. The only saving graces? Two. First, if you have lounge access with PAL, the lounge is renovated and much better. Second, if you need to connect between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, the shuttle is free and convenient. In my experience, this is the worst terminal for taxi touts and ripoffs. I ALWAYS use the fixed fare white and blue vans at this terminal. Saves tons and tons of hassle and not that much more money (if your time has any value whatsoever).
Still new. Still easy. Tons of food choices before security. Much cleaner. Adequate places to go pee or build a log cabin. The taxi touts have been pushed back out of the terminal, and arrivals are much easier. Check-in can be chaotic, especially with Cebu Pacific… Use online check-in and save yourself the headaches. It takes just a couple of minutes but can save you from large queues (most of the time).
I rarely use this terminal. It is where Air Asia (formerly Zest Air) bases, and I refuse to fly them under general principles, so I cannot comment. Last time I went out of there, it was very small, and very basic.
Some General Observations
There are two main problems at NAIA.
First, the biggest problem is simply getting to and from the airport in Manila traffic. The new expressway will make things 1,000 times easier. In general, I leave home between 3 and 4 hours before my flight from Quezon City. Especially on midday flights, I have occasionally needed every single minute of that time. The situation should now improve considerably now that it will no longer be necessary to take surface streets.
Second, NAIA has only one active runway that can handle jet aircraft. It is WAY, WAY over capacity. This means that nearly every flight after about 9:00 am is delayed. Sometimes a few minutes. Sometimes for hours. This problem is not so easy to solve, and there are few options other than expanding Clark (no easy connections to Manila… Which is why it did not work when tried before) or the planned airport at Sangley Point (IF it ever gets built). There is no room for an additional runway. President Duterte has stepped in to try and get the government to intervene with the airlines (moving some domestic and most private flights to Clark), but the problem of connecting to Manila still remains (There are VERY limited flights in and out of Clark nowadays. Don’t believe me? Check out the Clark Wiki Page. I have used the connecting bus to Clark from TriNoMa, and it is easy, but only a few buses per day operate. Note also, I arrived at Clark a couple of months ago due to a diverted flight from NAIA. The fare to Quezon City by taxi is over P 2,500. This leaves the bus to Megamall as the remaining option.
So, how much do I have to pay to leave?
Again, a common question. Even though I am no longer very active on LiP, I still get at least one email per month from somebody asking.
If you are a PERMANENT RESIDENT
Note: The fees below are higher if you are flying Business class or First class.
TIEZA Tax (P1,620, pay BEFORE you check in. Note: If you buy your ticket IN THE PHILIPPINES, it is most likely already paid. Look at the ticket T&C’s. Also note: Cebu Pacific NEVER takes this fee in advance).
ECC (Exit Clearance Certificate. P2,880 first departure of the calendar year, P2,170 each subsequent departure. After check-in, bring your boarding pass, passport, and ACR to the cashier at immigration and pay there. They will then direct you to the Diplomat queue for stamping. Note: If you leave and do not pay, you risk abandoning your visa. Do NOT risk this). Those on long term tourist visas need to get this at immigration before heading to the airport. Balikbayans are exempt.
If you are a Philippine Citizen
You just pay the Tieza Tax.
At NAIA, the much maligned, discussed, griped about P550 airport departure tax is now included as part of your ticket (as in most other places). You have always paid it, but it is now invisible. Note: Some airports in the Philippines (Cebu, and GenSan I know for certain) still require a tax paid in cash. The “inclusive” is only NAIA (Possibly also Clark… I cannot remember since I fly from there infrequently and really do not care about 500 Pesos).