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Much has been said and written about the congestion at the immigration area at the Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. My most recent experience was a mix of good and bad as the lines were quite long prior to my departure for Bangkok.
A very crowded immigration area when I joined the line. Note how far I was to the immigration booths and the meandering arrangement to maximise the space for queued travellers. I reckon that it took me almost an hour to get to a booth. Perhaps the airport can place some signs indicating how much time is estimated for one in line to get to the front? I wrote about this back in 2014 and proposed something similar to what I saw at airports like Narita and Incheon.
Meanwhile, the lines were shorter and faster upon my arrival a week later as shown in the following photo:
Believe me these lines are shorter and faster moving. There were many immigration personnel the night of my arrival including an old friend from high school. Only, there were only 2 plane loads of passengers so it will definitely be worse during the peak hours when larger aircraft with more passengers arrive at the terminal.
It is a good thing that the airport is installing machines for express lanes soon. That will surely expedite processing for, at least, Filipinos returning from abroad. I think the departures would be quite tricky since there are many requirements particularly for workers leaving for their overseas assignments as well as government employees who require travel authority (TA) for them to travel abroad for whatever purpose. I think its Terminal 1 that is more notorious for the long queues as I didn’t have similar experience when using Terminals 2 or 3. Airport and immigration officials should exert more effort to ensure such congestion is minimised especially as the country targets more passenger traffic through its international airports.
I was able to get the following photos of a couple of pages from the Philippine Airlines (PAL) inflight magazine Mabuhay. The photos show an airport terminal transfer guide for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which has 4 terminals. Since I get a lot of traffic and questions about terminal transfers in this blog, I thought it practical and informative to just post these here for everyone’s benefit.
I hope these are helpful!
[Warning graphic content]
Last May 30, I was picking up my wife at the airport and heard a loud crash as I was getting my ticket for the NAIA Terminal 1 parking lot. I looked around but could not see anything that could concern me. As I rounded the driveway though, I noticed the vehicles in front of me already slowing down. This was the scene that greeted us:
Van in an awkward position against the bushes of the parking lot fence and after colliding with a parked SUV. Security staff were already there and one person (the driver of the van?) seemed out of sorts.
As I continued my drive, I saw this gruesome scene of a person who was likely hit by the van when it crashed into the limited access gate of the parking lot:
The casualty of the incident was lying on the ground with security personnel apparently more concerned about the damaged gate than attending to the person.
Another look at the damaged gate that the van punched through before finally crashing into the SUV and the bushes as shown in the first photo.
I’m not sure if this incident was featured in the news. It surely is something that would likely be not attract so much attention as it may not be as ‘newsworthy’ as other incidents that have happened recently. That is often the case with road crashes, which seem to be regarded as something typically occurring.
One thing we get and should realize from this is that everyone is indeed vulnerable from road crashes. The casualty in the photo (I assume only one) was likely someone who was there waiting for a relative or a client to arrive. Large groups and even whole families may be found at the airport parking lot as they wait for loved ones to arrive. The victim probably was just wiling his time, even texting people about his status, when tragedy struck that night.
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post on the NAIA Expressway. This time, I am posting on the trip back from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3. It cost us 45 pesos, which is the same toll fee we paid for the reverse direction. Here are photos I took of NAIA X with some comments on the sections and signs.
Vehicles coming from Terminals 1 and 2 would have to take the on-ramp after the intersection of NAIA Road and the Paranaque-Sucat Road (Ninoy Aquino Avenue) and just before the intersection with the Domestic Airport Road.
That’s the Park’N Fly building that is located at the corner of the NAIA Road-Domestic Road intersection.
Traffic will merge with those coming from Macapagal Boulevard.
Speed limit and signs for merging traffic
The three lanes include the merging lane at right.
Noticeable along the NAIA X is the lack of shoulders. Although the lanes appear to be wide, drivers may become uncomfortable when two vehicles are side by side due to the perception of constricted space.
There are lots of reflectors installed on the media barriers. There are also a lot of ad space with tarps installed on each lamp post along the expressway.
Sign informing travelers of the toll plaza coming up ahead.
Directional sign guiding vehicles bound for the Skyway or Terminal 3. My colleagues and I agree that instead of just stating “Skyway”, the sign should state “Skyway/C5/Nichols”. Travelers who are not heading south and unfamiliar with the NAIA X off-ramps would likely take the Terminal 3 exit and end up passing through T3. There is actually another off-ramp leading to Andrews Avenue and eventually Sales Road (formerly Nichols) so you don’t have to pass through T3. We made that mistake and ended up going through T3.
Toll plaza prior to the T3 exit ramp
Section just after the toll plaza
Standing vehicles right next to the off-ramp with their drivers likely waiting to fetch arriving passengers. It is practically impossible to make a hard left to avoid going into T3 so you have no choice but to go through the terminal via the departure level (elevated) or the arrival level (ground).
Last Friday was our first time to use the NAIA Expressway. This was one of the major projects under the last administration and under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program and became operational last year after being delayed (It was not operational during the APEC summit in 2015.) for some time. I also commented on the need for NAIA X in one post before as I preferred to have a transit system instead. NAIA X is basically and mostly beneficial to cars and not necessarily for public transport. It also practically limits if not eliminates the possibility of having elevated transit (e.g., monorail or AGT) to connect the 4 terminals among them as well as to areas outside the airport zone (BGC, Makati, etc.).
I thought this post would be a useful one for travelers especially those coming in and out of the airports at this time of the year. A lot of people are departing or arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which is a main gateway to Metro Manila and adjacent regions. It can get congested along the roads between the four terminals of the airport and since there is not internal transport system linking them, travelers would need to travel along public roads. It cost 45 pesos (less than 1 USD) for the stretch from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 (same if you’re headed for Terminal 1), and I thought it was well worth it considering it can really be quite congested between the 4 terminals. That congestion has already victimized a lot of people before with many missing their flights. But then perhaps one major cause of that congestion was the construction of the NAIA Expressway?
Entry ramp across from Terminal 3 and before the Sta. Clara church at Newport City
Toll plaza where travelers pay upon entry to the tollway
Just before the toll plaza where most booths are for mixed ETC/cash transactions
Upon exiting the toll plaza, travelers have to deal with multiple lanes merging into two
Two-lane section with neither shoulders nor “elbow room”
Directional signs for vehicles bound for Cavite and Macapagal Blvd (left) and Terminals 1 or 2 (right)
The tollway section goes underneath the section headed towards Macapagal Boulevard and the Coastal Road
The lane from Terminal 3 merges with another from the Coastal Road
Signs showing which side to stay along towards either Terminal 2 or 1
Fork in the road – the tollway branches our to either Terminal 2 or Terminal 1
Next: Terminal 2 to Terminal 3
This is a continuation of the previous article providing updates on NAIA Terminal 1. The terminal is currently being renovated and what used to be the most maligned terminal in the country has improved both in terms of facilities (including the toilets!) and processes (immigration was efficient when I passed through). Here are more photos of the terminal from my recent trip.
The same Duty Free shops were there. The lighting was basically the same but area seems cleaner than before.
There are few Duty Free shops are T1 compared to other international terminals, which are like shopping malls in terms of selections (e.g., Changi, Hong Kong, etc.).
Many areas have been cordoned off for the renovation works at the terminal.
A welcome sight for many, especially those wanting to have a decent cup of coffee or tea would be the Starbucks at T1.
One of the new concessionaires at Terminal 1 is a welcome sight to passengers who before had to make do with food and drink stands that weren’t as attractive.
Another new concessionaire is this coffee shop at T1 offering what looked like fairly prices (for an airport) drinks, sandwiches and meals.
The corridor to our boarding gate has been repaired and cleaned. The carpets no longer looked filthy and were not smelly.
Japan Airlines aircraft docked at T1 sporting its original (retro) logo
Vacant slot and available airbridge at T1
Another look at the renovated and cleaned corridors to the boarding gates
A China Southern Airlines plane at NAIA Terminal 1
Passenger lounge under renovation
Shared lounges for First Class and Business Class passengers of several airlines
Stairs and escalators to the pre-departure area and boarding gates
Souvenir shop at the pre departure area
Final baggage inspection before the waiting area near the boarding gate
Boarding gate for my flight
There were plenty of available seats as passengers only started to arrive at the pre departure area. The seats were basically the same ones here when I last used T1. Though not needing to be reupholstered, these require proper and regular cleaning considering all the people who have gone through the airport.
I will post again soon on Terminal 1 but from the arrival perspective.
The long-delayed renovations to the Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 was finally undertaken a few months ago. The much maligned airport terminal has been dubbed as the worst terminal in the world, with poorly maintained facilities including dirty toilets. It is certainly not the worst airport in the country but fails as a international gateway. Here are a few photo I took recently upon checking in for a flight.
The main departure lobby seems so spacious with significantly fewer passengers now using the terminal. Many major airlines have transferred to Terminal 3 including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta and Emirates.
They must have changed the lighting as the area is not as gloomy as before.
Proper illumination plus what looks like recently sanded and polished marble equals a more refined departure lobby.
Even the check-in counters have been renovated.
Other counters are vacant due to the transfer (temporary?) of other airlines to Terminal 3.
Japan Airlines counters opened just in time and the queues were orderly.
Business class counters accommodated economy passengers whenever they were available (not processing business class passengers).
More on the renovations in the next post!
I was at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 recently to drop off the wife who was going on a trip abroad. I already knew that the terminal was undergoing renovations and many airlines had already transferred to Terminal 3 including Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, which had a of flight between them in and out of Terminal 1. This meant that Terminal 1 would have much less people and that’s exactly what we saw from the departure level driveway.
People getting carts for their luggage – and there are a lot of carts due to the drastically reduced number of passengers at T1.
The departure level driveway had very few traffic. This area used to be so crowded with security directing drivers not to park too long so others could stop to drop-off their passengers.
Well-wishers crowd the very limited space near the entrances to the terminal. This is despite all the signs practically screaming for them to clear the area. Meanwhile, one airport security staff seems exasperated after probably telling people to leave the area so many times already. There is a waiting area just after the walled/boarded off section in the photo where people cold make their last minute face to face goodbyes.
Waiting area for passengers and accompanying persons – I don’t recall they had this area before but then I probably didn’t notice because it was too crowded outside and I usually went inside the terminal immediately.
In a few days I will try posting about the renovations being undertaken at NAIA Terminal 1. These were necessary and long overdue for a terminal that’s been called one of the worst in the world. From what I saw outside, I don’t really expect to see much inside except perhaps some facelifts here and there. It’s better to manage expectations when it comes to such limited renovations.
A lot of people get angry or feel aggravated when they arrive at Manila’s international airport and encounter the long, chaotic queues at the immigration section. This is particularly the cases at NAIA’s Terminals 1 and 2, which handle the most international arrivals among the 3 terminals. Terminal 3 has significantly less passengers despite it being the hub of Cebu Pacific, which currently enjoys higher passenger loads compared to rival Philippine Airlines but apparently serves less international passengers than PAL.
Multiple queues seem to merge into one mass of people, all eager to get to a booth for their passports to be stamped. Early on, you will hear a lot of people already complaining about the queues and stating out loud how the system could be improved.
The solution to this problem is quite simple and is actually already being implemented at the immigration section for departing passengers at Terminals 2 and 3. In both cases, there is only 1 queue for passengers that is served by several booths. This same approach to manage queues of arriving passengers is already being applied in many other airports elsewhere including Japan’s Narita and Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi where they have to handle even more passengers. Perhaps, also, a couple of booths and a separate line can be provided as courtesy to citizens of other ASEAN countries. There are such courtesy lanes in airports in other ASEAN countries, with whom we have existing agreements for visa free travels like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. An illustration of the system is shown in the following diagram:
I posted the figure above to be clear about the systems I’ve seen in other airports that worked quite well in being able to handle the large number of arriving passengers at the airports. It is more orderly and efficient, and to me at least, it is fair for all passengers who tend to shift to lines they think are moving faster but eventually are frustrated when the line turns out slower than their previous one. We’re hopeful that airport or immigration staff can improve the system and really soon as this will effectively cut down the times people spend at the airport terminals.
I forgot to include a link to the design presentation that came out a few years ago. It was quite promising and lot of people (including me) hoped that the project would push through. Of course, we now know we are nowhere near an upgrade of Terminal 1. Following is a video of the redesign proposal on YouTube attributed to renowned designers Kenneth Cobonpue, Royal Pineda and Budji Layug.
I leave it to the reader to Google about new reports of what happened with the project and the bidding that was supposed to have been conducted. It’s been 1.5 years now since that proposal, and there’s certainly and practically nothing happening at NAIA Terminal 1.