I haven’t been to Puerto Princesa, Palawan since 2010 so I had wanted to see for myself what improvements they have done to their airport. This was considering the city and the province in general have become a very popular and accessible tourist destination featuring pristine beaches, hidden natural attractions as well as vibrant communities around the island. While the airport has been under renovation for a while, the terminal is already nearing if not already at capacity. Surely, as the country continues to promote tourism, Palawan will have a steady increase in the number of visitors and Puerto Princesa Airport will be the main airport access to the main island. The islands of Coron to the north of Palawan is served by a small airport in Busuanga, and El Nido at the northern part of Palawan Island will soon likely be served by another airport. But the jump off point for most of the island including the relatively “unexplored” south will be Puerto Princesa, which is also the centre of business/commerce. While its runway can handle large planes (I once rode on a B747 from Palawan), its terminal cannot handle the number of passengers such airliners are able to carry. The prospect of direct and regular international flights also would require a larger terminal to efficiently handle both domestic and international arrivals and departures.
View of the airport upon stepping out from the aft door
Passengers walk towards the terminal. Many passengers linger or loiter on the tarmac to take photos of themselves with the airport or aircraft in the background. While not unique to the Philippines, lingering on the tarmac is a no-no in many other airports due to security concerns.
Air Asia recently acquired local budget airlines Zest Air and now services Zest’s domestic destinations like Puerto Princesa.
We flew Cebu Pacific, which has the most flights servicing Puerto Princesa and had the better schedule for us. Unfortunately, CEB passengers seem to be experiencing a lot of delays. Our flight was delayed by 2 hours, which was definitely a waste of time as we had to go directly to our meeting upon our arrival in the city. Apparently, CEB has already earned the monicker its main competitor had for “planes always late.”
Bags being transported from the aircraft to the baggage claim area. Bags are loaded and unloaded manually so handling can be an issue and a concern especially for those using designer or expensive luggage. On days with inclement weather, luggage can get wet and there is the occasional bags being dropped (and damaged).
The baggage claim area at Puerto Princesa airport is obviously not so spacious with just a single belt shared by arriving passengers from different flights.
Crowded but not chaotic. That’s how I would describe the baggage claim area when two flights arrived one almost immediately after the other.
Sign informing visitors about the policy for going to the Underground River, one of the most popular if not the top attraction in Puerto Princesa.
Covered area for loading/unloading passengers and visitors at the airport.
Waiting area for people fetching passengers just outside the arrival area.
Notices for passengers and others entering the airport driveway.
Entrance to the airport.
Another look at the loading/unloading/waiting area just outside the terminal building.
Airport terminal driveway and departure unloading area.
Departure area under construction/renovation with seats, counters and other materials everywhere.
Cebu Pacific check-in counters. Tiger Air flights are operated by Cebu Pacific.
Air Asia Zest check-in counters.
Entrance to the pre-departure lounge/area.
Philippine Airlines check-in counters
Self service check-in machine by Cebu Pacific. This is very useful for passengers arriving early at the airport for their flights. It allows you to check-in, select seats and get your boarding passes prior to the counters opening for passengers checking-in at the terminal. It’s basically an internet or online check-in so you can go to the internet check-in counter, which usually has a shorter queue.
Passengers accumulating in near the Cebu Pacific check-in counters. I think airlines shouldn’t have policies preventing passengers arriving early from checking-in. This might be okay for large terminals servicing so many flights but for smaller airports like PPS, Cebu Pacific would probably do better by attending to passengers. Everyone could see that their staff were not at all doing anything behind the counters so they might as well check in passengers so as to reduce and better manage the queuing later on.
The airport now services international flights but mostly chartered ones. There is an international departure area and a simple immigration counter. These don’t look like they are in regular use.
Pre-departure area at the terminal – there seems to be a lot of seats but these are all practically occupied for a single flight. Most aircraft servicing the MNL-PPS route are not wide bodied but the area cannot accommodate 2 plane loads (assuming A319 or A320) of passengers. This is a non-smoking area by law and there is a room for smokers. People though seem to be in-and-out of the room so people seated near the door leading to the smoking room (there are 2 doors) still get a sniff of cigarette smoke.
Overall, the terminal is clean and orderly. There are 3 gates reserved for each of the airlines (Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia Zest) that have the most flights to and from Puerto Princesa.
Our Cebu Pacific plane was again late by an hour and so that meant we were getting home later in the night. The good thing about it was that it also meant less traffic (both the airport and roads) in Manila compared to a late afternoon arrival.