The anticipation of going to a great vacation, for the first time in that particular destination, builds up once you arrive at the airport. Just imagine the effect of a bad airport experience on the level of your vacation enthusiasm.
There was once a time when all domestic travel, except the Philippine Airlines (PAL) which happened to cornered the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Centennial Terminal, was heavily concentrated at the Manila Domestic Airport. Imagine the nightmare of missing your flight just because you’re at the end of a very, very long line of passengers during peak season — and that’s still outside the airport. After that, there was another line at the security check area, then still another line at the check-in counter. Now, imagine going through all that mess, only to discover that you lined up at the wrong airport terminal?
The runways form a single airport system, but there are four separate terminals or hubs (or airports, I really don’t know the exact distinction, but let’s not get bogged down on that). The four airports in Metro Manila are:
NAIA 3.This is the newest of all the terminals. I’m not sure if other airlines operate here, but I’m sure that all Cebu Pacific flights, domestic and international, go through here. It’s a big (not huge) and spanking new airport, so it’s clean and relatively well-maintained. I was glad I wore comfortable shoes when I first traveled to Cebu by Cebu Pacific because our boarding gate, Gate 120, is at the other end of the world. No problem if you believe walking is good (and you’d rather have that compared to cramped waiting areas in other airports). How to get there? Just go inside Villamor Airbase and you should be fine.
NAIA 2. Also called the “Centennial Airport”, NAIA Terminal 2 is the hub of PAL for both domestic and international travel. I’m really hoping that with an airport terminal all to one’s self, delayed flights will be a thing of the past. (The photo to your right, as well as the picture above, is taken from NAIA 3, not NAIA 2).
NAIA Terminal 1. This is the old international airport, servicing all the other international airlines.
Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal. This is the old domestic airport, currently servicing all other domestic flights.
A tip: If you’re not familiar with the Manila airport terminals, it will help that you ask which terminal you’re supposed to take. The four airports in Metro Manila are near each other, all found in Pasay City, except that the heavy traffic seems to stretch the distance. You’ll most likely miss your flight if you need to go to another terminal and you failed to include some buffer time. There are no subways or railways connecting the four, and they’re not exactly within the “walking distance” if you’re carrying a heavy baggage (but they’re not far away, so as to rule out hiking).
Also, driving your own car is no longer a problem if you have no driver while I experienced leaving my car overnight at the airport parking, it’s something I wouldn’t do again). If you take a taxi from your house, the cost of the cab and the hassle of looking for one would more than offset the daily rate of an airport parking service — just a little over P300. Just drive to office of Park ‘N Fly at the PTT gas station (formerly Caltex; see map and directions for Park ‘n Fly), near and along the same street as the Manila Domestic Airport. Get off your car, go to the counter and rattle off the required information (your name, plate number, airline and time of departure, as well as the date, time and airline of the return trip).
That’s it, you pay when you come back. If you already have a record at Park ‘N Fly, start with your plate number, every time you go back (your personal data are automatically retrieved). The good thing about it? There’s a free shuttle — a fleet of Mercedes Benz vans — to and from the airport, and the shuttle service will leave even if you’re the ONLY passenger. Save the contact number of Park ‘N Fly (0918-9910000), just text in your plate number (I figured texting your full name is a waste of time, since they know you even with your plate number) and say you’re waiting where after arrival. Voila! Convenience at its best. Thanks to Park ‘N Fly for the years of hassle-free travel, something I really wish I could also say to PAL and Cebu Pacific).
There are other airports in other Philippine islands and we’ll probably take them up one by one in the days to come (perhaps also the ticketing offices). Better still, you could write something about the airport near your place and send it to us. That way, we could have a more intimate detail of the place.