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NAIA Terminal 1 departures – some updates, Part 2

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.

IMG10847-20150503-0714The same Duty Free shops were there. The lighting was basically the same but area seems cleaner than before.

IMG10848-20150503-0714There 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.).

IMG10849-20150503-0719Many areas have been cordoned off for the renovation works at the terminal.

IMG10850-20150503-0719A welcome sight for many, especially those wanting to have a decent cup of coffee or tea would be the Starbucks at T1.

IMG10851-20150503-0720One 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.

IMG10852-20150503-0721Another new concessionaire is this coffee shop at T1 offering what looked like fairly prices (for an airport) drinks, sandwiches and meals.

IMG10853-20150503-0727The corridor to our boarding gate has been repaired and cleaned. The carpets no longer looked filthy and were not smelly.

IMG10854-20150503-0728Japan Airlines aircraft docked at T1 sporting its original (retro) logo

IMG10855-20150503-0728Vacant slot and available airbridge at T1

IMG10856-20150503-0728Another look at the renovated and cleaned corridors to the boarding gates

IMG10857-20150503-0728A China Southern Airlines plane at NAIA Terminal 1

IMG10858-20150503-0729Passenger lounge under renovation

IMG10859-20150503-0729Shared lounges for First Class and Business Class passengers of several airlines

IMG10861-20150503-0730Stairs and escalators to the pre-departure area and boarding gates

IMG10862-20150503-0730Souvenir shop at the pre departure area

IMG10863-20150503-0731Final baggage inspection before the waiting area near the boarding gate

IMG10864-20150503-0734Boarding gate for my flight

IMG10865-20150503-0735There 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.

NAIA Terminal 1 departures – some updates, Part 1

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.

IMG10839-20150503-0609The 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.

IMG10840-20150503-0609They must have changed the lighting as the area is not as gloomy as before.

IMG10841-20150503-0610Proper illumination plus what looks like recently sanded and polished marble equals a more refined departure lobby.

IMG10842-20150503-0610Even the check-in counters have been renovated.

IMG10843-20150503-0610Other counters are vacant due to the transfer (temporary?) of other airlines to Terminal 3.

IMG10844-20150503-0652Japan Airlines counters opened just in time and the queues were orderly.

IMG10846-20150503-0653Business class counters accommodated economy passengers whenever they were available (not processing business class passengers).

More on the renovations in the next post!

NAIA Terminal 1 Drop-off/ Hatid

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.

IMG10798-20150429-0622People getting carts for their luggage – and there are a lot of carts due to the drastically reduced number of passengers at T1.

IMG10799-20150429-0622The 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.

IMG10801-20150429-0624Well-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.

IMG10802-20150429-0624Waiting 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.

Queuing at NAIA immigration

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.

NAIA T1 immig1Multiple 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.

NAIA T1 immig2Another photo showing multiple queues at the immigration section for arrivals at the NAIA Terminal 1.

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:

Queuing at airports

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.

Whatever happened to the NAIA redesign/renovation proposal

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.

Crowded NAIA Terminal 1 arrival area

NAIA Terminal 1 remains as the main international terminal for Manila. This is where most international airlines are served. Terminal 2 is exclusively for Philippine Airlines while Cebu Pacific and All Nippon Airways are the only airlines with international flights via Terminal 3. And so it’s easy to see that Terminal 1 can get quite crowded especially as one international arrival comes after another during the peak hours of the airport. One A320 aircraft alone can carry about 150 passengers and wide bodied aircraft like the the A330’s and A340’s can carry more than 250 passengers each. Even larger B777’s and B747s carry more than 350 and 400 passengers, respectively. These are just too many for Terminal 1 to handle resulting in long queues at the immigration counters, crowded baggage claim areas and long queues again for customs. These passengers eventually converge along the arrival area driveway across from the well-wishers’ waiting area (i.e., a two story building) behind which is the open parking area of the airport.

IMG06074-20130510-2241When flights arrive one after another in short headways, the terminal becomes too congested from the immigration counters to baggage claim and the pick-up areas.

IMG06075-20130510-2312Well-wishers waiting for relatives or friends glance at the screen for information on arrivals while others look through the window to check out the people waiting along the driveway.

IMG06076-20130510-2312While others are seated, some people opt to stand at the windows, anticipating the arrival of relatives or friends. The second of the building that serves as the waiting area for well-wishers is air-conditioned but there open windows like the one shown in the photo. That window alone could cost a lot in terms of power consumption by the air-conditioning units.

The ground level is even more crowded and there’s always people wanting to cross over to the other side of the driveway to meet relatives as they arrive from the ramp. Airport security try their best to keep order but some people are quite insistent and in certain cases taunt or berate the guards for not letting them through. I think this behavior of people was quite unfair to the guards as the latter were only doing their jobs and its only right that they keep people from flooding the arrival driveway. It’s already too crowded and more people will only bring more mayhem if allowed to mix with the arriving passengers.

Terminal 1 was the subject of calls for renovations and an upgrade from what it is now, a bad first impression of the country. I remember a group of architects and designers came up with a plan to renovate Terminal 1 including improving the layout of the terminal and parking facilities. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) was supposedly tasked to follow through with this project but ended up offending people by bidding the project out. Another design firm was supposed to have won the bid but until now, there has been no activity related to this long-delayed major improvement. Perhaps there was hesitation as they agency struggles to decide whether NAIA should continue to serve as the main international gateway to the country? Well, it is certainly still the main gateway and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future as the prospects for Clark and other proposals remain hanging in the air. We should live with this reality and carry on what needs to be done to improve Terminal 1, and quickly!

Airport terminals and transfers at NAIA in Manila

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has four (4) terminals:

  • Terminal 1 – is the international terminal for ALL foreign airlines except All Nippon Airways (ANA), which uses Terminal 3. It is located along the Ninoy Aquino Avenue from the NAIA Road.
  • Terminal 2 – also called the Centennial Terminal because it opened in the year the Philippines celebrated 100 years of proclamation of independence from Spain (1998). It is used exclusively by Philippine Airlines (PAL) for both international and domestic flights. International flights use the north wing while domestic ones use the south wing. Recently, PAL transferred several domestic flights to Terminal 3, retaining only major domestic destinations at Terminal 2 (e.g., Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, etc.). For a complete list on which domestic flights are on T2 or T3, one can consult the PAL website. Terminal 2 is located at the end of NAIA Road.
  • Terminal 3 – the newest of the three main terminals, it is located beside Villamor Air Base (actually part of it was carved out of the base) and across from the Resorts World Manila complex. It is used mainly by Cebu Pacific (Ceb Pac), currently the country’s largest airline, for both international and domestic flights. Other airlines using Terminal 3 are ANA and Airphil Express, which is a budget subsidiary of PAL. The terminal is located along Andrews Avenue at the end of Sales Road (from Fort Bonifacio).
  • Domestic Terminal – now also called Terminal 4, it is the old terminal along the Domestic Road that used to be called the Manila Domestic Terminal where PAL, Cebu Pacific and other airlines used to operate domestic flights. At present, it is used by Zest Air and Seair.

More detailed information on these terminals may be found at the website of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).

It is quite easy to transfer between domestic and international flights if you happen to fly Ceb Pac since all flights operate out of Terminal 3 and the airline provides assistance through its transfer desk. The same used to be the case for PAL when all flights were out of Terminal 2. But then after PAL transferred flights to Terminal 3, many passengers would now have to travel between Terminals 2 and 3. The most inconvenient cases are for travelers transferring to or from international flights at Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is quite near and can easily be reached via shuttle bus. The more challenging transfer is between Terminals 1 or 2 and Terminal 3. Shuttle buses would have to go through the NAIA Road, the Domestic Road the Airport Road

There are no internal connections between the 4 terminals operating within the NAIA complex such as AGTs, monorails. There are shuttle buses that travel between these terminals but they use the public roads rather than an internal road exclusive for the airport. As such, these shuttles are subject to traffic congestion and possible delays. The MIAA website states that using the shuttle buses are free but I saw a sign at Terminal 3 showing that there is a flat rate of PhP 20. While the fare would probably cover fuel, maintenance and other costs, it can also be argued that this service should be free at least for passengers and covered by airport authorities as part of the services they provide to travelers. Perhaps passengers can present their tickets before boarding the bus. Others may be required to pay the PhP 20 fare.

IMG05340-20130123-0635Bus station/stop at the NAIA Terminal 3 – the station is located at ground level (arrivals) beneath one of the overpasses (departure level) and across from the airport taxi stand (shown in the photo). Shuttle buses are scheduled to depart every 15 minutes according to the sign.