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NAIA terminal transfer guide

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!

NAIA Expressway – T2 to T3

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.

Vehicles bound for Terminal 3 and the Skyway should keep right.

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

Off ramp

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).

NAIA Expressway – T3 to T2/T1

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 sign providing guidance especially for vehicles headed to Terminals 1 &2

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

Off ramp towards Terminal 2

Next: Terminal 2 to Terminal 3

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.

NAIA Terminal 2 international check-in

I took a few photos near the check-in counters at NAIA Terminal 2 as I myself checked-in for a flight to Bangkok. There was less confusion now compared to the last time I used PAL for an international flight and their ground staff were relatively unexperienced. This was the result of PAL rationalizing their workforce and opting for outsourcing ground services prior to San Miguel’s takeover of the financially-challenged full service airline. During the transition period, queues were longer as service times at the check-in counters were longer. Ground staff took some time to process each passenger as perhaps they had little training (if any) and thrust into the real work provided an initial shock that translated into slower services.

IMG07391-20131120-0628Passengers checking-in at NAIA T2. There are no internet check-in booths (for those who already checked-in online and would just drop-off their luggage) or automated check-in machines at Terminal 2. PAL needs to work on these services for more efficient services at the terminal.

IMG07392-20131120-0633A single queue with multiple servers means more orderly services for passengers. This is actually something that Philippines immigration should implement in all airports whether for departing or arriving passengers. I don’t get it why for departures, immigration can implement this simple system resulting in more efficient processing for travelers while the same cannot be implemented for arrivals.

IMG07388-20131120-0625Passengers lining up to pay terminal fees. NAIA is one of very few terminals still charging terminal fees. Elsewhere, these fees (if any) are already integrated into the plane fares and so passengers don’t need to queue and spend time for another transaction.

IMG07389-20131120-0626Travelers fill out immigration cards before lining up for the immigration counters. There are still many who seem oblivious to this requirement. While some are really the hard-headed type who end up stalling the queue, these people can easily be filtered by immigration or airport staff managing the queues.

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.

NAIA 2 Arrival Sunduan

I took some photos of the NAIA Terminal 2 arrival area while waiting for my in-laws to arrive from Singapore via Philippine Airlines. Terminal 2, which is also called the Centennial Terminal after opening in 1998, the 100th year of Philippines’ Independence, is exclusively used by Philippine Airlines for both its domestic and international operations. The North Wing serves international passengers while the South Wing serves domestic passengers.

Gate and fence separating the tarmac from the VIP parking area just behind the cafe at the international wing of NAIA Terminal 2 – I was actually taking a photo of the windblown coconut trees and the dark clouds generated by a slow-moving typhoon Gener.

VIP parking area at the NAIA T2 that is near the gate access to the tarmac. The building in the background is what used to be the Philippine Village Hotel. The building has been unoccupied for many years now and is up for demolition and re-development along with the old Nayong Filipino theme park.

Stairs to the departure level of NAIA-T2 with the control tower in the background

Cafe just outside the arrival level – I usually have a snack or tea at this cafe if I have time before the plane arrives

The waiting area has benches for people waiting for their relatives or friends

Small screen showing information on aircraft arrivals just above the public phones

7Coffee shop and screens at the arrival area. This is the only shop in the area as the other concessionaire closed up months ago.

The screens show passengers arriving at the baggage claim area inside the airport and as they exit from the customs checkpoints.

People could see passengers lining up at the immigration counters from the waiting area outside the terminal

Spacious arrival concourse exclusive to passengers (well-wishers are not allowed here). The yellow sign indicates the small duty-free shop near the exit from the terminal building.

Passengers transferring to the departure level can take the escalator shown in the photo. The escalator, however, seems to be always under maintenance and unavailable. There is another on the other end of the International Wing of the terminal.