The letters NAIA stand for Ninoy Aquino International Airport. formerly known as Manila International Airport. It is located some 7 km south of Manila in Pasay City. Pasay falls under the metropolitan Manila. The history of this airport dates back to 1948. Construction works started over the following years on a runway and taxiway, control tower and terminal which was inaugurated in 1961. This terminal got damaged by fires in 1972 and 1985.
Meanwhile a new terminal with bigger capacity had been built. In Aug ’83 it was in the new terminal 1 where Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino was assassinated. He returned from a self imposed exile from the U.S. Four years later he got honored by changing the name of the airport into NAIA, Ninoy Aquino International Airport. By 2010 the NAIA Manila had over 45 mil passengers.
NAIA-1 or terminal 1 was completed in 1981 with a capacity for 4.5 mil passengers per year and was later expanded to 6 mil passengers. Terminal 1 is the arrival/departure terminal for international carriers as Emirates, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Delta, United Airlines, Quantas and some more airlines. By 1991 it already reached its capacity number of passengers. For most years it was ranked among the worst of Asian airport terminals. Many of the mentioned airliners have moved to the new terminal 3 as per 2019 to get terminal 1 off its congestion.
Terminal 2 is also known as the centennial terminal. This terminal started operating in 1999 with a capacity of 2.5 mil passengers international and 5 mil domestic with a growth possibility to 9 mil total. This terminal is used by Philippines airlines and PAL express for both international as well as domestic.
Terminal 3 is the newest terminal of Manila airport and the largest too. It serves both domestic and international flights. This terminal with a length of 1.2 km is connected to a shopping mall and a car parking. The terminal can handle 33.000 passengers daily and in peak hours 6000 passengers. It’s intended that in the future all international carriers will use terminal 3 but as per 2019 there are only a few. Cebu Pacific is the main user of NAIA-3. The numbers that follow might give some wrong indications. 29 restroom blocks but in reality a restroom block for gents has just 2 sitting toilets and 2 standing toilets. Waiting lines are normal.
The departure area has 5 entrances but in reality all the 5 entrances lead to all departure check-in’s. All 5 entrances are equipped with security X-Rays. The result of this means that there are big queues for each entrance. This means when you’re still outside of the terminal building at the drop off point. Not something you’d expect from a newly designed terminal. International departures has check-in poles but that doesn’t give you a boarding card. For that you must go to a desk.
The immigration part is ridiculously slow and disorganized. There might be changes over the days or hours but with just two lanes for foreign passports and seven lanes for Philippine citizens, plus five lanes for ASEAN citizens the queues are big and some of the officers exceptionally slow. That there are 18 X-Ray machines just before that point doesn’t prove anything of a good structured and working system. Far from that.
Signs can be seen that bomb jokes are punishable by law and check-in or boarding cards are not accepted on your phone by the immigration officers. You need to have the printed version. An immigration card for both arrival and departure need to be given. Depending on your nationality, you’ll get a 30 days visa stamp without any cost. You do need to have a ticket out of Philippines in order for an airline to take you to the Philippines.
The terminal has baby feeding rooms, phone charging poles, kids play rooms, restaurants, duty free shops, waiting areas and more. Wifi is available each time for 30 min which need to be connected through Google station. Money changers are available and sim cards can be bought from Smart or Globe under different packages. For example $20 for a sim plus 16 GB package.
There is a shuttle bus connection between all terminals that go every 15 minutes but you need to pass immigration for it. The connections to the city are plenty. The most used is the Grab App (Uber sold its services to Grab). When you walk out of terminal 3 you will find so called bay’s. From bay 1 to 7 or higher. The Grab car picks you up at your particular bay. You might need to wait 20 min in peak hours as there is high demand and traffic jam is a 24/7 happening in and around Manila. Hard to give you a price indication but you can count on a 400 php ($8) to Quezon City and a 200 php ($2) to Pasay City. You might be asked by the driver if you want to go by skyway with a 45 php toll.
A train is indirectly connected to the airport but there are plans for a direct connection to terminal 3 in the future. There are nine city bus routes that go to places as Pasay City, Makati, Manila, Quezon City and others. Jeepney’s are the local cheapest transportation that also go to the airport. Overall you can’t really give NAIA Manila a high ranking compared to other Asian aiports. Some things are positive and some things can be improved or score in simplicity.