AWFUL: Connecting In Manila On Philippine Airlines

Filed Under: Other Airlines

When I wrote about the Philippine Airlines ticket that I booked, many readers warned me that the connection experience at Manila Airport is the worst in the world. I don’t want to say that that I dismissed what people were saying, but I figured they hadn’t been to as many awful airports as I’ve been to.

After all, I’ve gotten to the point where I almost enjoy transiting Cairo Airport, in a masochistic way.

Well, folks, we may not have a fancy award show filled to the brim with D-list celebrities, but I’m ready to give a first ever OMAAT award…

Manila Airport’s Award Winningly Bad Connection Experience

I can officially say that connecting on Philippine Airlines at Manila Airport is the world’s worst single airline hub transfer experience. I strongly believe this is true:

  • I’m referring specifically to the connection experience at a carrier’s hub
  • Not everyone will have to transfer terminals in Manila, and I assume it’s significantly less bad if you’re connecting in the same terminal; however, for those having to change terminals, good luck
  • I totally understand airport logistics are extremely complicated, and I’m not sure if this is Philippine Airlines’ fault, Manila Airport’s fault, or a combination of both; the reality is that as a passenger that’s not really our problem

What made this connection experience so bad?

  • My bags were screened five separate times
  • There’s no way to make a “sterile” connection
  • I had to wait over 30 minutes for a bus
  • Most people I interacted with were rude, for a country that’s otherwise known for hospitality
  • The airline doesn’t even operate their own lounge in the terminal out of which their most premium flights operate

Connecting From Terminal 2 To Terminal 1 In Manila

My flight from Taipei arrived at Terminal 2, while my flight to Toronto was departing from Terminal 1. The first thing to note is that there’s no real signage or information about what you should do.

I had asked the flight attendant on my flight from Taipei about how I should transfer, and he told me I had to clear immigration. I went up to an immigration counter, and then was yelled at and pointed to another guy. I showed him my connecting boarding pass.

Then he walked me through the immigration checkpoint and to the Philippine Airlines transfer desk. There the agents took a photocopy of my boarding passes and handed me a stamped piece of paper, and then that guy escorted me back to the immigration counter, where an immigration officer sort of let me into the country.

Philippine Airlines transfer desk Manila

My bags then had to be screened on arrival, and I found myself in the standard arrivals hall. I was told to look for the signage for the ITTL shuttle bus to get to Terminal 1.

In the arrivals hall signage was bad, not to mention the arrivals area is either under construction, or was under construction many years ago but they just gave up (based on appearances, the latter seemed to be the case).

At around 11:55AM I found the ITTL shuttle bus area, where I had to have my bags screened again. I found that odd initially. Were my bags being screened because we’d be dropped off airside?

Manila Airport ITTL shuttle bus station

“Have a seat,” I was told. I asked when the bus would arrive, and was told 12:30PM. So I had to sit in this room without air conditioning and wait for 35 minutes.

Philippine Airlines shuttle bus service

Sure enough, at 12:30PM the shuttle bus showed up.

Manila Airport shuttle bus

I’m not sure where exactly we were driving. Were these just the roads around the airport, or was this some sort of secure area? If the former, why did we need to have our bags screened?

Shuttle bus ride to MNL Terminal 1

This bus just dropped us off in the departures area, so then my bags had to be screened once again to even enter the terminal.

Mania Airport security screening

Manila Airport Terminal 1

Then I had to go through immigration and a full security check again. Fortunately I beat the rush, because it’s my understanding that the security lines can be really bad certain hours of the day.

Manila Airport Terminal 1 airside

What’s really strange is that at this point I was already airside, and this is all one terminal. However, for whatever reason they try to restrict what parts of the terminal you can walk into. For example, take the below pier. There was a security guard trying to restrict who could walk down this hall.

Manila Airport Terminal 1

“Stop! Where do you think you are going?”
“The lounge. Isn’t this where it is?”
“And what is the name of the lounge?”
“PAGSS Lounge.”
“Okay, go ahead.”

Does anyone know why they care what part of the terminal you walk into?

I’ll review the lounge as such in the next installment…


PAGSS Lounge Manila

Even at the carrier’s hub on some of their most premium flights, you’re still using a contract lounge.

The fun didn’t end there. Each individual gate is partitioned off, and you have to go through yet another security screening there.

Manila Airport departure gate

Line to get into Philippine Airlines departure gate

I took the below picture over an hour before departure, so it really doesn’t do justice to how full the gate area got. There were several dozen wheelchair passengers on the flight, and there simply wasn’t room for everyone.

Philippine Airlines departure gate

Before boarding started they also announced that elderly passengers could board with wheelchair passengers, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that probably half of the passengers identified as such, and then proceeded to get in line and stand for 10 minutes before boarding started.

That seems counterproductive in terms of trying to make the experience as seamless for everyone as possible.

Philippine Airlines Ground Experience Bottom Line

I truly believe the Philippine Airlines ground experience in Manila is the worst in the world when you have to change terminals. My bags were screened five times, signage was bad, I had to wait over 30 minutes for a bus, and more.

I can’t think of any other airline in the world where a hub transfer on the same airline is this complicated.

I fully acknowledge this likely isn’t entirely (or even mostly) Philippine Airlines’ fault.

However, if the airline and airport want to promote Manila as a connecting hub and want Philippine Airlines to improve, big work needs to be done when it comes to the transfer options. Either operations need to be consolidated in a single terminal, or there needs to be a better, more streamlined option for connecting between terminals.

To those who have transferred between T1 and T2 at MNL, how did your experience compare to mine? Can anyone think of a worse hub airport transit experience?

Comments
  1. Haha Ben, I hope you watched your bags during screening! MNL airport is by far the worst in the world, I’m not exaggerating when I say workers will sneak bullets in your carry on and extort you to not turn you in!

  2. The scary part is that this is an improvement from, say, 15 years ago. The inter-terminal experience has always been a disaster at MNL; fortunately, it is usually my final destination. My kids often end up transferring to domestic PAL flights and have missed connections to CEB or DMG (which is awful when there are only two flights a day between MNL and DMG). The only good PAL experience I’ve had was sharing an otherwise empty First cabin (yes, this was when PAL had F) with Boyz 2 Men on a 747.

  3. That actually sounds like a good day for a MNL transfer – you got off easy. We had to do a similar terminal transfer (but to the tiny local domestic terminal, which is an even bigger pile of garbage) and had budgeted 3+ hours to do so. Immigration line took 1.5 hours. Then we were told the bus wasn’t running. They told us to take a cab for $20 USD (which was only about 1-2 miles, but took nearly 30 minutes – then the driver asked for a tip). Then we weren’t allowed into the terminal without a printed boarding pass, so we had to get the ticket printed by the airline ticketing counter outside of the terminal (who wanted another tip). At this point, we had missed our flight time, but thankfully our flight was delayed another 2 hours, so we had plenty of time to sit in the hot waiting room. Beautiful country, but never again. That airport is so far behind other SE Asian countries.

  4. We flew from Zanzibar to Dar and on to Arusha, and had a similar experience as far as screenings. Everyone was nice about it and they escorted us the entire way, but in 15 minute our luggage went through x-ray machines 5 times, and this was coming directly off a flight where they’d already been screened just to get on. Nowhere near as bad as what you are describing, but still a huge unnecessary pain.

  5. How about an international-international connection at any US airport? For a non-US citizen I think you need a visa (or visa waiver if you’re eligible) don’t you?

  6. You got lucky. Seriously – I think that’s the emptiest I’ve ever seen the check-in area at Manila T1 and I have to think that helped with the next check point line. T1 is notably the worst of the Manila terminals for arrivals and departures (can’t speak to the transfer part). First time I arrived in T1 it took me well over an hour in the middle of the night to get through immigration- and the ac was broken – and people who checked bags *still* had to wait for them (was so glad to be carry on only!).

  7. Consider yourself lucky that you haven’t seen Terminal 1 at its worst.

    Imagine doing check-in when the entire hall is literally filled with thousands of people. So full that people are standing in sitting in the entire area blocking off all check-in desks. I felt that every passenger had brought their entire extended family with them to wave them off…

    That said, even then the lines at security were actually quite OK!

    Didn’t your departure gate have a separate area cordoned off for business class and airline elites to sit? That is normally the case (at least when flying out on CI from T1).

  8. its really not fun to take a airplane in the Philippines. so much hassle and the traffic to get to the airport ( i did 4 hours for 60 kilometers)

  9. Transited T3-T1 on a Oneworld award (QF -> JL) for the Rugby World Cup in September…nightmare of nightmares. Needed the entire 6 hour connection window, so had no time to use the lounge at all. The experience above sounds like heaven, actually.

    Funniest part of the ordeal was watching how porous border control was. People just wandering freely in and out of the immigration area.

  10. Had the same experience as RCB at DAR. Transiting from Zanzibar to AUH. Multiple bag screenings (with seemingly no one paying attention to the machine), multiple document checks followed by another bag screening. Got 30 minutes in the lounge with a 4 hour layover.

  11. Ben, sorry you had to experience Manila airport to see for yourself what so many of us have suffered before. I would easily return to Cairo compared to the sh*t show that is Manila airport.

  12. I once had to recover a lost bag at Manilla airport…I would recommend just abandoning the bag if this ever happens to you

  13. Thankfully I don’t travel much. And usually after a European trip I need a year to recover from the experience (and yeah, that is usually an easy trip from the east coast).

    Usually something just goes wrong. For example, we landed at LHR late from Brussels due to a flight delay and had to change terminals and took the bus. Unfortunately after arriving at the stop for the terminal that has AA, we got word that our flights were switched to BA due to a flight issue on our connecting flight.

    Anyone who has taken that shuttle bus realizes that is a one way path. Once you enter the next terminal for a connecting flight you can’t go back out the door and take the shuttle again. Your only options are to go to your connecting flight at that terminal or go through customs and enter the country. So we did that, and fortunately there was no line. But then we got questioned by the lady as to why we didn’t have more luggage (on return flights home we often just check some bags since we don’t care if luggage gets delayed on the flight home). Fortunately there was a more senior guy there and he said, “yeah, let them in since that is their only option.”

    From there we had to catch another shuttle to get back to the original terminal, and go through security, etc. again and barely made the flight. (This was a few years ago and it involved going back and forth between Terminals 4 and 5, I think!).

    For someone like you who travels a lot, I assume you just develop a tolerance to flight hassles and can usually tolerate it better than some of us 🙂

  14. Yes, knowing this, I simply don’t buy tickets connecting in MNL if flights are in separate terminals. I believe terminal 1-3 connections are worst.

  15. In the Philippines people would ask “what airport you’re going to?”. Now you know why. All the terminals are just scattered around the runways and are basically their own thing. Domestic Terminal 4 is a fun one.

  16. As a Filipino based in Manila for his entire life, I’m not surprised at all yet completely disappointed, in a pitiful way at the state of the country’s “premier” airport. The entire Manila Airport is in disarray to put it nicely. All four terminals are hugely separated by a series of densely trafficked roads. The road that you took Lucky was an access road and it is simply a “general area” rather than a “sterile” one. If you’re a foreign national from a less powerful country, you’re goofed into transiting between terminals. Manila Airport (or the entire Philippines) does not have a single airport lounge worthy of winning aviation hospitality awards. Even Philippine Airlines’ signature Mabuhay Lounge pales in comparison to many lounges in Mainland China, which says a lot. That place seriously looks like an 80s DMK lounge. Lastly, Manila Airport staff are indeed some of the surliest I’ve ever met and I can’t blame them, due to the political/labor situation over there. Many of them are barely surviving on minimum wage. The further you stay away from the airport and the people around are friendlier and less shady.

    To put a positive note, it’s quite unfortunate that you didn’t transit on Terminal 3 which is the best among four terminals. It is certainly not SIN/DXB/ICN, but it is much more comfortable and air conditioning is present all throughout (a godsend in Manila’s humid climate). It’s a good thing you did not even went through the departures area of Terminal 2, that place reeks of stifling heat, seats are almost always full, sever shortage of toilets, and food options are laughably bad.

  17. The one time I traveled from MNL I couldn’t even find a taxi that accepted to take me there until I offered a significant amount of money to make up for the time the driver would spend in traffic to get to the PAL terminal (about 2 hours for a few kilometers). I remember boarding my flight to HKG and hearing the flight attendants saying that 48 passengers didn’t make the flight.

  18. Manila is by far my worst airport experience. Staff is rude, waiting lines terribly long, limited services, terrible lounges, etc. I even had to PAY for the shuttle between the terminals.

    Also traffic between the airport and the city is a complete mess!

    My advice: don’t go to Manila. Horrible city and horrible airport…

  19. Well, folks, we may not have a fancy award show filled to the brim with D-list celebrities, but I’m ready to give a first ever OMAAT award….

    OMG this made me giggle!

  20. This is what I heard from second hand information about the large number of wheel chair passengers, a lot of them don’t speak English, so it’s easier to just be wheeled through connections. You see a lot of Filipinos doing this on China Airlines or EVA transiting through TPE. This might not only applies to Filipinos, but since you are talking about transiting through Manila, just want to share what I heard.

  21. Now I am getting worried… I am on 2 separate tickets. Scheduled arrival from a domestic flight in T4 at 12:25 pm and departure in T3 at 6:30 pm for an international flight. So basically 6 hours.
    Does that sound feasible?

  22. Consider this an improvement. Philippine Airlines was popularly called “Practically Always Late” for most of their existence and the shitshow that is MNL has always been a significant part of the problem.

  23. I think plenty of airports in the USA have a similarly awful connection for international -> domestic passengers. ATL In particular comes to mind as a total disaster for this kind of connection. There is a shuttle train linking the terminals but passengers arriving from overseas cannot use it. You must exit the intl terminal, take a bus which drives around the perimeter of the airport (just like at MNL) then enter the domestic terminal, go through security again and take the shuttle train (perhaps to 200m from where you first arrived long time ago).
    A special shout out for DFW where signs and announcements in the baggage hall say that ALL bags must be claimed and rechecked, when in reality bags for INTL-INTL do not need to be claimed (I have done LHR-DFW-GRU and no need to claim bags). You must actually ignore the signs at the airport !!
    International arrivals in the USA are the last thing on the airport planners minds.

  24. “ Well, folks, we may not have a fancy award show filled to the brim with D-list celebrities, but I’m ready to give a first ever OMAAT award…“

    ^More of this please

  25. Connecting to/from the Domestic Terminal there is even worse.

    I got sick and tired of waiting for the bus, and whenever I have to do it now I just get a cab. 100 pesos is worth not having to wait 45 minutes or more.

  26. LOL Lucky, we all warned you. I’m honestly surprised that this is your first time transiting through MNL. I had the pleasure of connecting through MNL last year and it was every bit as awful as everyone said it would be. The fact that you successfully did a same day connection is a miracle in itself. Sounds like you got off pretty easy to be honest.

  27. Flew TPE-MNL and GUM-MNL many times with connections to another airport. Though, it’s still mind-blowing to me how much effort they have put in making the experience miserable. It starts with the really countless but still lousy security checks, their “comfort rooms”, the PAGGS Lounges and ends with the seating at the gate. However, a pure delight is the usually friendly agents at the Air Asia/Cebu counter.

    The worst connection I ever had there was transiting during a 5 hour layover from Terminal 3 to terminal 4 coming from MFM heading for PPS. There is no bus (only taxis) and the water supply and AC were broken that day.

    I believe they won’t let you walk down/up landside because of the taxis. They don’t want people to board in the arrival area. Though, I’d say that a tripple-burger at Wendy’s is always a good excuse. 😉

  28. This certainly sounds like an unpleasant experience, but imagine an international-to-international connection at JFK without the benefit of a US passport.

  29. Last month I transferred from terminal 3 to terminal 1. I almost took an Uber, but decided to take a paid bus instead, bad move. The bus stopped for gas along the way, had to wait 10 minutes for an attendant to arrive to take the diver’s credit card, had trouble with the card, finally got it to work but then filled up the tank all the way on a full-sized bus, then had trouble turning around to leave the gas station. It ended up being a 50 minute stop in addition to the typical Manila traffic, and I had to pay for it! Never again.

  30. Haha, this is about what I expected. Thanks for the review

    I don’t think the commenters who say that some US Airports are “just as awful” grasp how next-level terribad MNL just is.

  31. You should feel proud and lucky that you did not miss your connecting flights. It took me 2 hours to get from terminal 1 to terminal 4 in the evening time.

  32. I agree with the others who say that you got lucky. I was there only once a few years ago and 1) the checkin area was so full that I didn’t even know where the line where I was supposed to be started, and 2) my terminal transfer was on a tiny and VERY old bus and the waiting area was OUTSIDE, under incredible hot weather.

    I give it the award for worst airport in the world as well.

  33. @Lucky Cebu Mactan is the opposite. The new international terminal is small but beautifully designed with a nice plaza premium lounge, very green and a relaxing experience.

    It is connected to terminal 1 ( domestic) which has recently been completely renovated and easy to walk to/ from

    Philippine will relaunch their LAX service and many locals avoid NAIA when they can given that Cebu has many international flights ( although China has been cut recently due to the circumstances). There are even around 8 daily flights to South Korea

    There’s also a Waterfront Hotel next door.

    At Manila terminal 2 is Philippine’s hub. Due to limited space they moved North America flights into terminal 1 – however there’s no Mabuhay Lounge. The terminal was renovated

    It’s not difficult to get between terminals if you know who and how

    Believe it or not it once took me under an hour to get from Makati to the airport , checked in and onto the aircraft

    Terminal 3 used by Cebu Pacific and many international carriers is much nicer

  34. What I usually do is forgo the shuttle completely and take a taxi to terminal 1. I don’t have to bother waiting for the shuttle bus (which I have found to be late several times) and the taxi ride is usually only a couple hundred pesos (about 3-5 USD) and takes maybe 5-10 minutes at most.

  35. Lucky, you really got off easy. Lol

    Nobody asked you for a tip the whole time and no one tried to extort you with “there is a bullet in your bag Sir, what would you like to do? Pay me or go to jail in a third world country?”

  36. @riku: In ATL for international flights arriving at concourse F, you claim your bags (if any), go through customs and then turn left towards the baggage recheck belt and connecting flights security to re-enter terminal F. From there, you easily take the people mover to any concourse. Last time I was from plane to concourse C within 25 minutes (carry-on only, business class), but for a US airport it is pretty straightforward. But there was no shuttle bus needed – at least not for through-checked tagged bags as far as I could see. Perhaps if on separate tickets and you need to re-check your bag without an interline agreement at that airline’s respective counter?

  37. I connected via Manila on Philippine Airlines. My flight arrived early and they were able to book me on an earlier flight to my destination so I only had to spend minimal time in the airport. You weren’t even going to the Philippines so its hard to have much sympathy when you booked through Manila vs some other city for your connection. I mean seriously the issues with this airport are extremely well known.

  38. @Riku, not sure what you are talking about re:ATL. Just transited international to domestic a week ago and got right in the train after clearing immigration and customs.

  39. @ Riku @ Gaurav — This is dependent upon whether or not you need to appear at the check-in desk in the domestic terminal lobby to get a boarding pass. If so, you have to take the bus. Otherwise, you can use the train. ATL spent $1.4 billion on 15 gates in Concourse F and they still have this disaster. Kinda ridiculous. This is what rampant corruption will get you.

  40. No matter how small the authority, in MNL it will be used to secure a payoff whenever possible… including being the gatekeeper of a hallway to the lounge.

  41. While I enjoy flying with PR between YYZ and TPE because of their frequent sales, I always have overnight connections at MNL.

    Clear immigration, take out the bag and book a Grab to Intramuros (I always stay at Bayleaf) and enjoy my stay. This is the least painful way to fly through MNL.

  42. @icarus it once took me 3 hours to get from makati to the airport. It had been raining heavily. I am obsessively early so all ok. To the people saying it is like an x airport you are wrong. It is truely a horrible airport. For a major city it should be so much better. I agree with others. The immigration queues were short. At the other terminal they are always long. I used to go to the ASEAN counter and if asked say I thought it was for people who lived in ASEAN. At immigration avoid the people with lots of paperwork in their hands. They are OFWs who take forever to process.

  43. My wife and I had a similar experience just connecting in Terminal 2 from a Cebu flight to Turkish last year. We got lucky that Turkish had changed terminals recently. Coming off the flight from Panglao to Manila on Cebu, we got our luggage and exited the baggage area. It took us a quite a while just to find the departures area. The signage in the airport is terrible. Luckily, we had a enough time and eventually found it. We also had a connection in the domestic terminal when we arrived. That wasn’t until the next day, but just getting from the airport terminal to the Marriott where we were staying for the evening was an excruciating 30-45 min drive to go 4-5 miles. The next day, I think we were early enough that our ride from the Marriott to the domestic terminal for our flight to El Nido wasn’t nearly as bad. Overall, the experience at the Manila airport wasn’t all that impressive.

  44. Sounds like inter-terminal transfers at BOM and DEL before the new terminals were opened. Terminals at opposite ends of massive airfields, irregularly timed shuttle buses to get between them, officious government employees everywhere trying to spread their misery, touts everywhere demanding tips, landside lounges where you’d sometimes have to leave an hour and a half before your flight to make it through security, etc. But this actually sounds several orders of magnitude worse…

  45. Any google search would have told you how bad connecting in Manila was. I only fly once a year and I knew that. But you thought you knew better than the masses. Just because you fly a lot doesn’t mean you are smarter than other flyers when it comes to airports you haven’t been through.

    “I don’t want to say that that I dismissed what people were saying, but I figured they hadn’t been to as many awful airports as I’ve been to.”

    Lucky, you dismissed their warnings.

  46. @ Charles — That’s not really how my blog works. I review the experience no matter whether it’s good or bad. In many ways I find it more amusing when it’s bad. So what other people said about the experience had no impact on whether or not I’d review it, though I am happy to confirm they were correct.

  47. @lucky I can’t help but wonder if the security screening has something to do with airport certification. For the longest time, (and still maybe even today) MNL was on the FAA list of airports that fail to maintain adequate security. Signage stating so is sometimes even posted in jetways in the US. Maybe they are trying to improve? Overcompensating?

  48. My wife took a taxi from termnal 1 to 3 at midnight. The taxi driver pulled over to a dark alley and demanded $100USD to complete the journey. Her bags were in the trunk and she was threatened.

    All Manlla taxi drivers are the sons of Satan

    I have also personaly witnessed a security guard take jewellry out of a bag after it went thr xray and put it in her pocket. I said nothing and moved on as recommended by my wife.

  49. The most important tip as a white person in the Philippines I can give you is to always smile, give eye contact and act relaxed. Then everyone is friendly. Also expect things to not always go according to plan. But things always work out.

    And the security guard was just doing his job asking where you where going in terminal 1. But I never get asked there since I just smile and look at the security guard.

    Immigration staff are always grumpy by the way. Shit job. Unending flow of people and low pay.

    The airport in Manila sucks since it is run by the government just like the airports in NYC.

  50. Had to connect from T1 to T3 and T4 to T1.

    What an adventure that was, I passed immigration and exited the terminal to look for the shuttle only to realise you can only access the holding pen from the inside. Had to negociate my way back into the terminal to go back out to the outdoor waiting area.

    Queues to enter T3 were huge thank god there is a seperate queue for shuttle bus passengers. The amount of people in T3 is nothing short of crazy felt like DXB but not premium, not to mention that there were 0 power plugs in the terminal.

    T4 is an amazing small turboprop terminal and has to be the best of the 4. After waiting 20 mins for the bus I decided to just call a grab. Then there was the security check to enter T1, the huge line for checkin, thank god the webcheckin counter for KE was empty, I even got upgraded. Security lines were huge, stores take up 90% of the usable space in the terminal and other 10% is blocked off by security guards (what for ? who knows). I just found a restaurant upstairs from the main area and stayed there until my flight. Needless to say arriving at ICN after that felt like reaching the gates of heaven.

  51. The transfer is truly awful, but its better if you prepare better for the experience. I do it a lot and its routine enough. First, just go straight through immigration. Second, if you want to wait for a free bus, you’ll have to…wait. If you want to just go to your next terminal, you can take any one of the many, many buses that do loops around the airport (20 pesos for the cheap one, 100 pesos for the fancy one.) Or, if you dont have any pesos, you can just call a Grab taxi and take that directly to your next terminal (not more than 100-200 pesos). Then you wouldn’t have to wait at all.

  52. Knowing that Lucky knowingly had to connect between disjointed terminals at MNL, I didn’t see anything that looked remarkable here, given that it’s a developing country. One shouldn’t set oneself up for disappointment, yet that’s what Lucky did. If I didn’t know who the author was, I would’ve guessed it was written by a complete rookie of int’l travel.

    Terminal 1 recently underwent a complete renovation, and your pictures show a sparkling facility, consistent with the last time I departed from there. Again, I understand the frustration of having to change between disconnected terminals, but with that in mind, screening of baggage at the entrance is common in many developing countries. And now, that queue is inside as opposed to before, when it was outside in the heat. Also, security is built by layers, so they put redundant layers at MNL due to all of the issues that have been seen in the past.

    PAL doesn’t have its own lounge at T1 because it’s an overflow facility for them vs. their home terminal at T2. And those gate waiting areas, they are what they’ve always been in terms of size, and can get busy. But you can almost always find a seat and they are better than the average gate holding area at a large US airport.

    Big yes to commenters’ suggestion to use CEB as the gateway to the Philippines, when possible – at least if MNL isn’t your (only) destination. For transfers, do your homework and consider the options accordingly.

    I bet Lucky has never tried to make an Int’l-to-Int’l transfer at his home airport of MIA lol!… Anyway, is it just me, or is Lucky just getting shorter on patience these days? And his replies look more like retorts than they used to. Still appreciate the reviews, but there’s definitely been a change in tone lately. 🙂

  53. as a filipino guy i never ever use manila airport. cebu airport has much better experience than manila airpprt

  54. I’m impressed you found a bus. Actually I’ve seen signs, but met no one who actually went on a MNL inter terminal bus (I always took a taxi at an extortionate rate).
    Remember taking a PAL flt to xiamen and queueing in the wrong (= Filipino) line for immigration for like an hour, before being shouted at by a police officer. No signs at all, you’re supposed to know 😉

  55. I hope you visited Cathay lounge too. Two weeks ago I departed from MNL in Qatar business class and they directed me to the other lounges, not Cathay’s. Thankfully I already knew about it and just went straight there for a great experience

  56. MNL airport is THE WORST in the world. I was there last in 2015, flying out of T2. Before entering the guard wanted to see my boarding pass but I didn’t have it because I needed to check-in. He wouldn’t let me in so after 2 minutes of trying to reason with him I just barged in. Then prior to the check-in counter, there was a line run by airport personnel to weigh bags. WHY??? The airline weighed my bag and gave me my boarding pass. Then prior to security I had to visit a window to pay the airport tax in cash. Then I had to visit another window to pay the departure tax. After security check there was ANOTHER security check to enter the wing where my gate was.

    I’m first gen Fil-Am, and my parents go to the PI often. This is THEIR take. The PI is overpopulated because its people are devoutly Catholic (I’ll let you figure out the connection). Why couldn’t the airport taxes be included in my ticket price like every other country in the world? Why does it take two people to collect these taxes? Why weigh my bag when it’s the airline’s job to do so? It’s because the government creates pointless and menial jobs to put people to work.

  57. @Marco

    I did international to international at MIA and other US Airports more than once and even if it can be a pain, it’s not even comparable to what I went through at MNL. It was in 2014 and I don’t know how it is today but it’s by far the worst airport experience I have ever had.

  58. @Lucky

    You were simply unwise to ignore the tidal wave of warnings about that sh*t show called MNL. I travel extensively in Asia/Pacific. From New Guinea, west to Sri Lanka, north to Nepal, east to Japan, further east to Hawaii and south to New Zealand. With the exception of just two nations, I’ve been to every other nation in between. That adds up to about 200 airports.

    And MNL is conspicuous as the one and only airport I’ve avoided because of the horror stories. From stolen luggage, grouchy staff, lack of AC and clean toilets, queues of biblical proportions, disconnected terminals, extortion by airport workers, all the way through to murders, gunfights, kidnaps and even dead bodies found stuffed in suitcases! It’s all there in glorious technicolor for anyone to watch and read, instead of just taking my word for it. But apparently PAL and MNL have plans for ‘improvements’. Overall, I think you were there on a ‘good’ day.

  59. I worked in Manila for 18 months. Terminal 1 is one of the most rundown terminals in the world. When entering the drop off area in my taxi, the guards would run up to the taxi and have him open their glovebox. That’s it. If you were not white, they would also have them open the trunk. I guess I thank white privilege because they only looked in our glovebox. I always asked the driver why, and he would tell me they were looking for bombs. Bombs in the glovebox? “Please take me to Terminal 1 and stash this ticking box in your glovebox, please!”

    My girlfriend was flying to meet me in the UK and the outbound immigration agents pulled her aside for screening. They went over her UK Visa with a magnifying glass because they believed it to be counterfeit. They asked her questions about why she was leaving, when she would come back, if she had work overseas, etc. Who cares why she is leaving her home country with a visitor only visa? Leave it to the UK to deal with her if she is trying to defect. After all of that, they asked her to pay a special tax for leaving on a UK Visa and then the airline had her pay another tax (in cash) for flying on a business class award ticket.

  60. I think I got off pretty easy last week. Terminal 1 to 3, Thai to Cebu, both international, all economy. Monday lunchtime. Expected the worst so booked a 2 hour connection. Arrived into T1, straight through passport with no line and out to a Grab I booked in the airport ($3). 20 minutes to get round to T3, then through security, into the terminal, check in, straight through security again and passport and I was airside within an hour of landing on Thai, with two hours to spare. Wasn’t simple but nowhere near as bad as people had told me.

  61. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for your feedback. I think you were being nice with your feedback about our airport and I’m glad you did not experience any untoward incident hopefully. But i agree MNL is not geared for connections.

  62. Just a month back I had to transfer from Intl To Domestic. I budgeted plenty of time in-between. Domestic terminal is horrible if you have a long layover. Construction going on all over the place. No way I was waiting for the bus 45 minutes so I had to talk to 3 taxis before one was willing to take me, and then he played the “sorry no change sir” card. Having to exit the airport to transit is just insane I don’t know how they haven’t resolved that yet. Conflicting information from the PAL staff about paying to change to an earlier flight – one telling me I could only do it at the ticketing office outside, then another telling me I could do it there but it wasn’t available anyway.

    Being stuck in that domestic terminal for 4 hours was horrible. The only walk outside you can take is to Jollibee and a few very sh*t food stalls are inside.

    But returning on a PAL flight from Cebu (where they decided to bump me because I didn’t check in online – which I actually attempted a few times unsuccessfully), it was midnight and there was literally no transportation. Hundreds of people waiting with one taxi showing up every few minutes. Thank goodness for GRAB

    Not a place I’d like to fly through again.

  63. HAHAHA…..just made me relive my experience going to Boracay through Manila (where I met my current husband btw). The Philippines are an amazing place, but that airport and Philippine Airlines….oye! Just wait until you try flying out during a holiday and wait an hour just to get inside the terminal! Glad it all worked out though and hope you enjoy PH.

  64. I agree with you Lucky. I travel once a year to the Southern Philippines and I would never transit in MNL even if the airfare from the US to MNL is cheap. Mactan Cebu is a much better transit/connecting point as it now has more and more international flight services. You also get access to Plaza Premium Lounge in both Domestic (just opened) and International Terminals if you have a business class ticket or PP.

  65. Vietnam Airlines Int’lDomestic is exactly the same in SGN and HAN. They are separate terminals requiring multiple immigration, baggage scans, security scans, and a shuttle bus with your checked luggage.

  66. You forgot the dedicated flight waiting area doesnt allow you access to the washroom or to bring (or buy) liquids like water above the 100 ml limit.

    Such a ridiculous airport.

  67. Amazing what the sexpats will put up with to be able to engage in their disgusting hobby in the Philippines.

  68. Carly Rae Jepsen is definitely not D-list.

    What’s interesting is why it departs from T1. I remember taking this from T2 where international flights fly in/out and there is an actual PAL lounge.

    Well, at least the A350 is quite good.
    You would hit the jackpot if you flown the 321neo with Diamond seats.

  69. You survived a good day at NAIA, Lucky. I purposely built in an overnight stay at the Belmont Hotel right next to T3 knowing they provided shuttles to all NAIA terminals. I had flown in from a Cebu Pacific domestic leg into MNL and then was flying JL the following morning in T1, and gave myself a lot of time, having known that NAIA is bound to disappoint, period, when it comes to Manila and one would rather be safe than sorry. Because I knew that I didn’t want to be rushing if, God forbid, I’d been extorted (yes even as a brown-skinned Filipino -American) or a drive-by shooting happens (Google it). I’ve always gotten myself to the airport from anywhere in Manila 3-4 hours early for that very reason and kept an eagle eye at my entire surroundings.

    PAL and MNL’s airport management are famously to be blamed. Even airport real estate is a matter of mismanagement, poor planning, and outright stupidity. There’s just way too much going on airport grounds. Too many porters, idle staff, “security” people, vendors, “family and extended family” and everything in between that have no business being at an airport. PAL pasting “look, ma, we’re a four-star airline!” by cabin doors is a joke. Why some major PAL international flights were outside their T2 base is beyond me. Instead of trying to launch more new flights to the US, PAL needs to fix itself and accelerate

    Getting screamed at on the way to that PAGSS lounge? Been there, done that.

  70. I’m with @Matt.

    BOM domestic to international is the worst transfer I have ever experienced. Next time I’ll just leave from Delhi.

    I’ve done MEL / MNL / LHR in the past. I missed the tiny sign for transfers, so meet the lovely Manila immigration team as well. Fortunately I was staying in terminal 2. I didn’t have to suffer the multiple bags checks in terminal 1 from past experiences.

  71. I can’t believe all the scary cab stories! Thanks for sharing. We usually have a relative pick us up with our car or hire a ride, but I’ve never been extorted by a cab driver before, and I travel to MNL frequently. I’ll certainly take extra caution for future rides.

  72. Oh wait!!! You are complaining on the situation in 2020. How about the first time I went to Manila 10 years ago? OMG!!!!!! It was way worse than this.

  73. Having lived in Manila for the last 6 years, married to a fantastic Filipina who doubles as my minder, I learned the hard way – plan your flights to ONLY use T3 which is half decent, avoid PAL, even for domestic flights where Air Asia and Cebu Pacific are preferable, NEVER plan a trip that requires an inter-terminal connection, and if you can’t avoid it, use Grab because the buses are totally random. Avoid T1 (and its horrific lounges) like the plague, despite the renovation two years ago. T3 protip – all the decent restaurants (well – Mary Grace at least) are landside, and it’s the only terminal you’re allowed to enter if you’re not flying, making it the goto choice for family send-offs. It even has a multistory car park, although often very full. As with everything in Philippines, there are tricks and workarounds, but you have to know. To just rock up expecting an easy time is foolhardy – sadly !!!

  74. I have transferred from T1 to T2 at MEX and T3 to T1 in Manila. Absolutely no comparison MNL requires a long bus or taxi ride whereas MEX is a simple tram, unless you arrive after midnight when you have to pay for a bus.

  75. I have flown USA to the Philippines many times. Over 60) with PAL and then another 10 with other carriers.

    Most international flights with PAL originate out of terminal 2. A very different experience than Terminal 1.

    I am not sure why you have such indignation. Yesterday I flew from MNL to LAS via INC with Korean Air through terminal 1. Bags checked to go into the terminal in the Phils drives me nuts but it is not enough to be damning. It is the initial screen of checked luggage and ensures some lunatic does not blow up the terminal. You do not have to remove shoes or take out laptops.

    Terminal 1 check-in is not ideal but it took me 15 minutes once inside to get a boarding pass. Then 10 mins to get through immigration.

    The security at the gate area you whined about is a secondary screening forced by the USA on flights to North America. Some places lock you into the gate area and you have to re-screen to go to the bathroom. At terminal 1, there are coffee shops and bathrooms in the corralled section. Of course, if you are in the lounge, it would be oblivious to you.

    The Mabuhay Lounge in Terminal 2 is excellent. PAL has very few flights out of T1 so that is why they subcontract.

    Some of your review is fact. other parts are sensationalist whining

  76. So, is it impossible to walk from one terminal to the other? I know they discourage it at many airports, but I have usually found a way, even if I have to walk along the edge of the road at some points. It beats wasting time in a boring taxi, plus you get to stretch your legs.

  77. Unfortunately Philippine Airlines belongs to the worst airlines in the world and the airport has several recognitions as worst airport in the world. I am there many times during the month and really feel how much you suffered there. If you want to have a better experience in Manila I recommend Terminal 3. Singapore Airlines departs from there as well as several other international airlines. Also the terminal is way better. That’s the only recommendation which I can make at that time. Unfortunately.

  78. Ben, I apologize for not posting my experience transiting MNL Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 in late January, 2020, LAX-MNL-SGN (MNL T1 to T2) and return (T2 with no need to change terminals), all in Business class. On the outbound, I had read all the horror stories and searched for the latest info on TripAdvisor, where a recent poster stated that he did not have to go through immigration, because he was transferring from an intl flight to an intl flight, as was I. I asked EVERYONE (flight attendants, LAX check-in agents, etc.) if I had to go through immigration…and all assured me that I did NOT, but only if I WENT DIRECTLY FROM THE PLANE TO THE PAL TRANSFER DESK (maybe 100 feet from the plane’s door), which I did. There, luggage through the x-ray machine, a PAL employee walked me and a couple others to the next, far away point, where I entered a waiting area for the airside shuttle. After xeroxing my boarding passes and passport, the agents told us to be seated in the waiting area. The bus arrived in maybe 20 minutes, and all 25 of us were off to the plane for SGN. Be sure to get ALL your boarding passes at the original DEPARTURE checkin (LAX for me), because without the second boarding pass, I would have had to go through immigration. As it was, the whole process took about 1 hour but was not complicated or unpleasant. Upon arrival at T2 for the flight to SGN, we had to put the luggage through security machines for a second time on entering the terminal.

    I hope this information may help others, also.

    No Philippine entry or exit stamp was put in my passport, in either direction.

  79. You can walk from T1 to T2 as they are on the same side of the runway; I have done it with a backpack. T3 is completely on the other side of the runway and would require a several mile walk through some rough looking neighborhoods.

  80. As a person who lives in the Philippines, I know what you feel. This is why I avoid flying from Terminal 1 and 2. Terminal 1 isn’t that bad when I flew on QR 18 months ago. I usually fly CX which uses Terminal 3 so I don’t have much of a problem except for the long queues going into the airport and sometimes Immigration.

  81. Thanks for the review. This was kind of how I imagined it to be. A total dump.
    I have never gone through MNL airport and see no reason to go there anytime soon.

  82. Yes, I concur that it’s a miserable experience. Worse yet is transferring between international and domestic terminals at the Manila airport. I was there last June, but was forewarned. I paid someone to meet me and handle the transfer, so it went much easier.

  83. Seems that you got lucky… the airport code should be changed to DYS (Dysfunctional)

    Try dealing with T1 at 11AM when no fewer than 6 jumbos are leaving between noon-1:30- three weeks ago when i was there – there here had to be 12-1500 people on the immigration line.

    Thank heaven for my APEC card!! Worth the cost even for one MNL “experience”

    FYI – last month, they finally got the Xiamen plane that crashed in August 2018 off of the runway – it only took 16 months…so nice to see when you land…

    A hint to anyone using this hot mess in the near future – if you are leaving, stay at one of the hotels across from T3 or in the Casino area where you can get to the airport using the SKYWAY – Even seemingly close areas like Makati and Global City can mean a trip of up to (in some cases over) 2 hours when the weather goes bad – or it’s Friday –

  84. Worst connection? No. The immigration hall at any US airport is on a par with this. And if you’re connecting international to international at a US airport , you’re forced to run the gantlet of US immigration for up to 3 hours even though you’re not actually going to enter the US.

  85. When I lived in BGC, I would only take flights departing from Terminal 3. The commute was pretty fast if you flew out on a weekend (which I timed my flights to do so). I’d even pay extra to fly on Cebu (LCC) over the mainline just to not fly out of Terminal 1. It was that garbage of a commute.

  86. My experience was somewhat… pleasant…? I had a scheduled 24-hour stopover in Manila on my way from Bangkok to Osaka (Plan was to visit a friend in Manila). Enroute to Manila, my plans fell through so now I am headed to a country with no hotel reservation and an incoming pair of typhoons.

    I had gone to the transfer desk and asked if due to the typhoon I could standby for the Tokyo flight leaving in an hour. They took my passport and boarding card and escorted me to a dark room with other people adjacent to the transfers desk (Kinda felt like a hospital). 45-minutes later, an agent returns with a boarding card, hotel, dining and taxi voucher.

    The next day, to my surprise, I cleared security and immigration within minutes. In spite of all of the negative things I heard about Manila Airport and PAL; it was quite a nice experience for me.

  87. So you actually didn’t do a sterile transfer, Lucky.

    This is exactly what happened to me the first time I took TPE-YYZ via MNL. They wave you through out into the arrivals hall where you have to squeeze on a transfer bus and re-enter via T1. That’s why your bags were screened so much.

    That desk where they photocopy your passport has a door next to it which opens up into a sterile transfer lounge. From there you take a bus and don’t need to clear customs again in T1 (I actually warned about this in a previous post).

    But the fact that no one could properly explain this to you in a country with a very high degree of spoken English is emblematic of the generally chaotic state of affairs in the Philippines.

  88. I am married to a woman from Cebu. We always try to fly directly to Cebu to avoid Manila. Lately we have had to fly thru Manila due to the Coronavirus and due to a lack of good mileage tickets to Cebu. That is too bad as Cebu has a really nice new international terminal. I will say this however the Manila airport is better than it used to be. There used to be no free shuttle and you had to navigate between terminals using taxis that constantly were ripping people off. There is a lack of seating, food outlets and restrooms. The lounge is ok but not great. I will be back there in 2 weeks via JAL

  89. @ harry hv

    Lesson 1 for frequent flyers : never ever connect international-international through any US airport. US airports have not yet been made ready to handle such transfers.

    Domestic>domestic works relatively well.

    International>domestic just be time wise prepared for the immigration lines.

  90. TPE-MNL-AU, T2 to T1 – we went straight to transfer desk. In T2, there’s a sleeping lounge we stayed in before they escorted us to immigration to T1, all the way to our gate. Going back, we have 12hr layover and left the airport so we had take care of checking ourselves in. Our luggages were tagged to destination we didn’t have to pick it up and drop it off again.

    TPE-MNL-CEB, T2 International to Domestic – I went straight to transfer desk. There’s a dedicated immigration booths for transferring passengers but I had to pick up my luggage. Only problem I experienced is T2 is under construction and I had to take the stairs while carrying my scuba diving gears. Returning to TPE, my luggages were tagged to destination country, I didn’t have to do anything else with luggages.

  91. I didn’t read all the comments, but just want to say to those claiming transiting in the US is worse: you do not know MNL.

    I had a couple of transits in MNL a few years ago, but I did my homework and decided not to transit on the same day. I arrived from Palau in Terminal 1 on UA one night, and flew out on a domestic flight out of Terminal 3 on Cebu Pacific the next morning. The traffic, as I found out, was horrible going to hotel and from hotel to terminal, despite I picked a hotel on the Terminal 1 side (Conrad) and the morning traffic the next morning was a bit better. I can’t imagine how much time it would take if I had to go from Terminal 1 to 3 on the same day! On return, I flew into Terminal 3 (on Cebu Pacific domestic) and flew out of Terminal 3 the next morning on CX. I did stay at one of those casino hotel (Marriott) just across from Terminal 3 (maybe 1000 feet away); however, the skybridge wasn’t open yet back then, so I had to take a shuttle. A “short” ride took 30+ minutes, unbelievable!

  92. Hi Ben. Sorry that you had a terrible experience in Manila. I am a Filipino who lives in Cebu and I would rather have a tooth extraction rather than connect in Manila. Here in Cebu we have a more rational terminal arrangement and I would say 2 beautiful terminals!

    Manila has 4 separate terminals each around 20 to 1 hr away from each other depending on traffic even though they are within just in 2 mile radius! There are T1 is an international terminal. T2 is operated by PAL and is both domestic and international. T3 is also both domestic and international. And T4 is budget local. PAL operates on T1, T2 and T3. You really have to get out of the airport area to move from one terminal to another.

    The reason some areas in T2 are black off is because it is a hybrid terminal which has both domestic and international flights. What is stupid is that the boundary between domestic and international is fluid! It can move depending on the flight volume.

    The F&B option on T2 is a joke. They run these as if these were carenderias (street restaurants) and sari-sari (street stores) stores! PAL needs to level up. Yet they are so proud that they are a 4 Star SkyTrax airline.

  93. “Well, folks, we may not have a fancy award show filled to the brim with D-list celebrities, but I’m ready to give a first ever OMAAT award…”

    Lucky, it took me a few moments to get what you were referring to, but, now that I have
    this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read lol.

  94. Like everyone else said, you had it easy… Really easy.

    My MNL T1 (or was it T2?) experience a few years back involved a taxi transfer then no running water in the entire terminal due to the renovation that resulted in the far better experience you had.

    Oh and another trip I ended up sleeping outside of T4 between 2 am and 5 am. That was special. At least it was better than the immigration queue.

  95. An interesting read; as some fellow readers of your blog have noticed the traffic situation in Manila (especially near the airport) is congested and slow.. pity you did not have the transfer in Manila Terminal Two (where Philippine Airlines operates their own lounge and it easy for transfers); Terminal One where you flew out of is not easy – looking forward to your thoughts on Philippine Airlines long haul flight

  96. As your name implies, you are one of the luckiest with your ordeal. You have not seen worst yet buddy.

    Welcome to the Philippines!

  97. Manila Airport transit is perfect for me… if I have a 4 hour transit time, I’m able to exit, picked up by a friend and have lunch before being dropped off at the terminal I fly out. My recent transit had 7 hours in between. Had a good lunch with a friend and even had time for a foot massage and shopping before flying out. I agree with all the difficulties you mentioned… so Manila needs to be a purposeful, planned transit!

  98. T1 -T2, T4-T2, T2-T3, T3 to Sin

    All transfers made in last 3 weeks. Allowed approx 4 hours for every transfer and needed every bit of it except PAL Flight was 2 hours delayed (T2).

    Researched on web and knew the ropes. Still needed 4 hours to be safe.

    You were lucky that PAL T1 lounge was third party. Muhabuy lounge in T2 was small (we started by standing then shared a crappy scummy diner style table for 3 hours) with nothing to eat and only beer. So was the PAL flight to PPS.

    Cebu has a great airport and the hotel across the street was great. But our Air Asia flight landed in T4 (domestic s***le) which meant 1hour for bags, forget the free shuttle, grab the bus, then board for Borneo.

    Back to T2 and shuttle to T3 with Skybridge to Hilton Manila (a great place).

    Local guides informed us that they are starting/building a new airport 30 km north of the city which could end the delays created by having to use heavy traffic city streets for the worst transfers.

    I don’t think that will help the disorganization at all. Nor will it improve the lounge experience.

  99. We avoid it. We live in Cebu. Look up balls balls scam. We have forfeited several flights while transiting through Manila. Thankfully, Cebu has more international flights now. As others have said, you got off easy brother.

    Recently, the bus wasn’t ‘running’. The transit international pax were asked for their boarding passes at the shuttle area. Then, it was announced the bus would be delayed and cars were awaiting us at 160pesos per car. It was/is the most obvious scam that I’ve seen in my travels.

  100. This is great. I am flying tomorrow with my family (and 2 kids) Business on Qatar Airways to MNL, landing at T3 and having to connect to Air-Swift on T4. We have a 4 hours gap for the connection but after reading this I am already getting concerned. I’ve been trying to reach the second airline to ask for advice how to connect best, or even request a transfer service but obviously there is nobody there to answer. Thank for the heads up all !

    Any recommendations from T3 to T4 would be greatly appreciated. The route in googlemaps doesn’t look bad at all, I think I will just take a GRAB / UBER.

  101. get out of t3. turn right to find yellow metered cabs. use skyway for 45p toll. total fare will be under 200. i did it Monday to T1 at 730am. took 10 mins. t4 is very close to t1

  102. I walked between Terminals last time after waiting 30 min for the bus that never came. 2km later and covered in sweat I finally made it to the lounge. Never again…

  103. This is a chronic issue at large international airports. FRA is no better. SFO to FRA to VCE totally on LH took forever. Why is it that when come off a presumably prescreened international flight do you have to go through three more full screenings to get to the next gate. There the terminals were even physically connected. My favorite was directional signs to the same concourse. One pointing left and one pointing right. It did not seem like German efficiency.

  104. Just be thankful that you didn’t have to transfer from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. If you think the other way around was awful this one takes the cake. Funny how PAL wants to be the gateway to Asia but that’s more like a dream considering how awful the connection is. NAIA is basically a representation of the Philippine government: a pure utter mess to say the least.

  105. MNL Terminal 3 – the A/C was not working 3 out of 4 times when I flew out of it over a span of several months. I’ve never SWEATED as much in any international airport worldwide.

    On the way in, a Cebu Pacific ground staff tried to threaten and scam me out of a bottle of Absolut I bought (in sealed duty-free packaging) by saying that it’s not allowed for International to Domestic transfers. I took my phone out, snapped a photo of him and said “Are you prepared to lose your job for a $20 bottle of alcohol?”

    He ran off. I cleared immigration and boarded the domestic flight with no fuss.

  106. I had to transit from PAL Domestic to Singapore Airlines International in MNL, ie. inter-terminal. I read up ahead of time, and did the smart thing of booking a car to pick me up to commute from one terminal to the next after going landside, instead of risking the (I’m told, sometimes non-existent, regularly irregular) shuttle bus. (Since I wasn’t connecting to a PAL flight, I couldn’t use the PAL shuttle service.) I breezed through immigration as I had an APEC card, so I have to say my whole experience wasn’t as much of a nightmare as yours sounds. It did cost me some money to have to book a car for the commute, but I’d say it was every penny well spent!

    On a separate note, PAL Domestic out of MNL apparently experiences regular delays of at least an hour (mine last year from MNL to CEB was 2.5!), so if you ever had to fly out of MNL to another Philippines city with a connection awaiting, I say plan with a 2-3-hour delay in mind!

    Indeed, it’s more fun in the Philippines!

  107. @Marco The thing is that the airport service has been very bad since I first went there in 1977 when I worked in Hong Kong . So bad service for 43 years which I have personally witnessed .
    Filipinos are a lovely people and mange many things very efficiently both inside and outside their own country . Manila 5 star hotels are amazing and well managed . Manila airport is bad because of bad government management , if it was contracted out to a private company it would eventually be better.

  108. Lots of interesting comments in here. My wife and I just got back from the Philippines which included time in MNL on 3 separate occasions and while I was prepared for the worst after reading tons of horror stories, I didn’t find it remarkably worse than some other developing world international airports I’ve been to.

    Arriving to the country in T3 we waited in immigration maybe 30 min. Would have been less if we hustled to beat the rest of the people on my flight. Immigration agent was practically mute, whatever, no issues. Went to the Globe counter at arrivals, got a sim, called a grab to the hotel, had to go back inside arrivals to get upstairs to departures where the grab would pick us up, they needed to scan our bags to get back inside — no biggie. Hopped in the grab, off we went, perfectly fine Uber/Lyftesque experience.

    Next day — took a grab to T4 for our flight to El Nido on AirSwift. The grab, like the half a dozen or so other ones we had taken over the past day, was safe, cheap, and courteous. This terminal is much smaller and less organized, but still not that crazy IMO. Note that they wanted to see ticket printouts at the door at the curb — I’ve seen this in various countries, particularly where security (or “threat level”) is more of a concern like DEL or CAI etc. We’ve gotten accustomed to carrying a printouts of our tickets for each leg of a trip just in case. Lady at the checkin counter let me off for being a kilo over on my carryon bag, which was nice. No issues in security, everyone was kind and professional. Food options in the gate area were limited but serviceable. Hopped on the flight without issue.

    Now for the grand finale — returning from Coron (which is a downtrodden small and lightly secured airport) to MNL T4 and then transferring to T3 for our flight home. Arrived at T4, collected our checked bags (they had a closed circuit tv over the carousel showing you the guys unloading, which I’ve actually never seen before). Asked the cop at the exit door where the inter terminal bus to T3 was, she pointed us across the street and about 30 yards down the way. Waited maybe 15 minutes and a white air conditioned bus pulled up, we confirmed with the driver that he was going to T3, everyone on board paid 20pesos (~$0.40) a head, took us about 10 minutes to get to T3. Had to have our bags screened to get inside like the other day. Grabbed some jolly bee, checked our bag, went through security without issue, and hung out in the PAGSS lounge until shortly before takeoff which was on time.

    At no point did anyone shake us down, act rude to us, or give us incorrect instructions/advice — and we’re two white Americans. Is it possible we encountered the perfect possible storm of staff, traffic, and passenger congestion conditions? Sure. Sometimes being prepared and relaxed can go a long way towards your sanity though. I blocked a ~5hr layover to account for the worst and only needed maybe 1 when it was all said and done.

    Hopefully this anecdote might give some of you some peace of mind if you’re coming to MNL in the future that it’s not ALL doom and gloom.

  109. @Russ: Have you ever been to MNL? Connecting in FRA can indeed be terrible but it is HEAVEN compared to MNL.

    Same goes for transferring from an int’l in the US without US passport. Yes it is truly painful but still much better than transferring in MNL.

  110. I had a similar experience a couple months ago on Christmas eve at MNL. Just add thousands of “well wishers” getting in the way and a canceled flight on top of your experience. I had to sleep on the floor in the terminal for a few hours since there was not enough seats. I’ve been to hundreds of airports and this is the worst by far. I will only visit the Philippines via CEB from now on.

  111. Why so many checks including the most ridiculous one down one wing of T1, jobs jobs and jobs. Very easy! Every checkpoint is supporting a family!

  112. Manila is BAD. Full stop. Not just transfers, arriving or departing as well. The thing is, nobody seems to care about improving things….. and arguably worse than 15-20 years ago when there was only T1 and T2…. because my experience in 2019 was significantly worse than in 15-20 years ago.

  113. Hopefully, the relevant authorities of the Philippine government have read and are seriously considering these criticisms and comments.

  114. Sangley international airport to break ground in Q2 (from two days ago)
    https://www.bworldonline.com/sangley-international-airport-to-break-ground-in-q2/

    “The province of Cavite is targeting to break ground with its joint venture partner for the first phase of the $10-billion Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) project in the second quarter.

    Phase 1 will involve the construction of the airport’s first runway, which can accommodate 25 million passengers yearly, helping to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

    The Cavite provincial government targets the airport to start fully operating by 2023, with partial operations to start a year earlier. The fourth runway will be opened after six years.”

    New airport in Manila will be in place within five years. This airport will most likely get built since the Philippines President wants this project to happen for his legacy.

    Plus there is a lot of money to be made from the land the current airport uses that will be freed up.

  115. Terminal 1 in Manila is the worst. I avoid it like the plague at all costs. Every time I go to Manila, I make sure my flight doesn’t arrive and depart from there. I’m used to the 5x the security in NAIA. That is all over the malls in the Philippines.

  116. I agree with @Hueyhuey. The was a door not far from the transfer desk with a dedicated bus airside.

    That said, the “sterile”experience wasnt great in my perspective either. I still had bag screenings three times and there was a area getting off from the bus where we just sat for 30 minutes waiting for someone to let go up an escalator as immigration would not allow it without authorization.

  117. Based on your articles, I STILL feel like Cairo is worse than this. This just all came off as inefficient and inconvenient, whilst Cairo seemed SCARY and actually dangerous, with all the immigration bribes, passport holdings and terrorist attacks.

    Regardless, I wish you could experience an international-to-international connection at any major USA airport as a non-US citizen. Oh boy, it’s quite something………

  118. China airports are quite known as the WORST in the world for extreme delays and cancellations period and I’ve travelled a lot. Had 3 cancellations there so I try NOT to stopover anywhere in China. toMost bathrooms are complete garbage and stink. As for Philippiness, heading there for business so we’ll see… Going on a personal vacation after to Boracay or Siargao (Travel & Leisure rated Philippines as #1 best islands in the world consecutively so I am curious). Personally, I would not travel anywhere in Asia right now especially CHINA dominant population , the epicenter of the virus period. I’ll wait and see.

  119. For me, CHINA airports are well known as the WORST in the world for extreme delays and cancellations period and I’ve travelled a lot. Had 3 cancellations there so I try NOT to stopover anywhere in China. toMost bathrooms are complete garbage and stink. As for Philippiness, heading there for business so we’ll see… Going on a personal vacation after to Boracay or Siargao (Travel & Leisure rated Philippines as #1 best islands in the world consecutively so I am curious to check out). Personally, I would not travel anywhere in Asia right now especially CHINA dominant population, the epicenter of the Wuhan virus period. I’ll wait and see on that cause not worth the risk imo.

  120. Lucky, I don’t think PR is pushing MNL as an international hub. I doubt there’s much strategy in selling cheap flights TPE to YYZ. MNL is a destination airport with domestic connections. And most of PR’s international traffic does go through T2 (SFO, LAX, HNL, LHR), with easier domestic connections. Your trip is an edge case, and kinda unfair to MNL airport. OK, not that it’s a great airport, by any means.

    Agreed though, that the bus transfer between terminals is a nightmare (best to use Grab or a metered taxi). The line to get into the terminal can be really long (if you are running late, show the security guard your ticket and discreetly slip them P500 to go to the front of the line). If you are in business class, or have elite status, then you can skip the long economy class check-in lines. It’s a manageable process, and certainly doesn’t require a 4 hour layover to transfer terminals! The first-time experience of transferring at many airports throughout the world can be confusing and stressful. MNL is no worse that most developing countries.

  121. They are pushing PAL as a hub to Asia and Australia from USA with specials to other Asian locales via Manila often cheaper than Manila only.

  122. @chris

    Good description if the T4 T3 bus is there – grab it! Only 20 PHP. But nobody told us about it and we tried to get the free shuttle (which is seldom there when you need it). But you have to have 20 PHP PP and you have to go out past the taxi stand and the waiting area to see the bus and then run for it.

    We got lucky and managed to be the last onboard. Looking for the free bus but then bailed.

  123. @Mario

    I agree that the security is all over the Philippines.

    We arrive at the Hilton which is accessible via the Skybridge from T3 (so very handy).

    As we check into the Lounge the security people arrive with our luggage and require that my wife remove the Knife in the bag. We are staying in Madeira for a month and we brought along a Heinkels kitchen knife set since B&B’s never have sharp knives, paring knives and proper cork screws etc.

    So in order to check in they must remove the kitchen knife set in case we are about to run amok in the hotel I suppose. Have traveled with this knife set for several years all over the world.

    First time for everything.

    Set was returned on checkout as we left the hotel – but quite amusing I suppose.

  124. 1. Airport construction only started last year to accommodate more flights & passengers. Basically there’s just too much flight coming in & out of the airport that existing terminals can no longer handle. The government is trying their best as flights/airlines were scheduled to be transferred last year but just logistically impossible.
    2. Be glad of the new administration. Previous airport personnel used to plant bullets in passengers’ luggages to get money from them. Doesn’t happen anymore, btw.
    3. Immigration line is hell, but T2’s usually not. Officers are usually neutral – unless they get triggered by the passenger.
    4. Philippine airports always have baggage scanners at the airport entrance. You took a connecting flight. You should’ve ask for the check-through option for your bags so there would no need for you to claim it & check it in again.
    5. PAL flights in T1 were added just recently, hence, the lack of airline-operated lounge maybe?
    6. Transferring to the same terminal would have been a breeze. If you wanted the best service from A-Z you shouldn’t have flown with PAL. I’m sure you researched about the airport before buying those tickets, yes?

  125. While it doesn’t sound as bad as this, my worst was in Cancun. Traveling EWR to LIM from United to Avianca required a terminal change which requires entering the country, retrieving luggage (if you’ve checked), waiting outside (in the heat and sun) to take a bus and then checking in, etc. I had a two hour connection time and barely made it.

  126. MNL…where bureaucracy and incompetent design create logistical nightmares that only Kafka and Escher could appreciate.
    I avoid it at all costs.

  127. Hi Lucky, thank you for the candid review of the MNL airport terminal.

    I am not a fan of multiple security checks myself and I don’t see the benefit of security checks as you enter the building. BUT you must realize that the Philippines is under constant scrutiny of international watchdogs that they need to implement these unpleasant security checks.

    As locals, we learned to live with it, but yeah, I can understand if you’re a westerner on how you may find this over the top.

    By the way, you got it easy as you’re transferring between PR flights, you got some sort of assistance with PAL. It can get much worse–and try to come from Terminal 4 next time–I’d like to see what you’d think about that. 🙂

    Transferring airport terminals–it’s more fun in the Philippines. 🙂

  128. My worst airport experience was flying from South Africa to Houston via Nigeria, with it being intransit in Nigeria, and flying SAA then United, both Star Alliance. First clue of trouble was SAA would not check our bags through to Houston. Said we needed to claim In Nigeria.
    We get off first flight, look for signs for intransit only to find there is nothing in place. Then all that was there was long customs lines, and signs stating the need to show our visa, we had none.
    Then asking for help lots of head shaking. Finally someone showed up asking for people on the UA flight to follow him, he did take us to get our bags, and rechecked them at UA counter, then took us to a small hot room, mention he hopes we make our flight, after some money changed hands, by most of us, around 25/30 people, we were led to the gate, with just a few minutes to spare, my Boss traveling with me never let me forget I book the flights lol.

  129. Who here remembers transferring terminals at Athens Heraklion before the new airport was built? That was a nice hour transfer between International and Domestic — a bus ride that went all around the border of the airport and the air force base before depositing you in front of an amenity-less terminal. But of course that was 25+ years ago.

    I’ve noticed some nice J fares on Philippines to Jakarta and Singapore that have tempted me given that the A350 looks really nice. Now I’ll pass.

  130. I flew to the Philippines for work and MNL is a complete disaster. Arriving late at night the car to the hotel we paid for wasn’t there. Had to ask a bunch of random people at taxi desks to find the person taking us who was wandering around the airport.

    Leaving MNL, the screening process is insane, you are screened to walk in the doors. Then there is no ability to get a ticket until like 1.5 hours before the flight so we waited around, then on to get screened again, then just like you said the gate area fills up so you have no room to move around and everyone is crammed in a small space trying to get on the plane. Walking onto the Cathay flight was like lifting a hundred pounds from me, was so glad to be leaving Manila.

  131. So here I am seated on the floor at MNL T4.

    We flew Qatar Airways Business class and the flight was great. We landed at T3. I have to say I am very surprised how everything was so so smooth. We cleared immigration and had the bags in 10 minutes. Besides the very unfriendly immigration lady, everything was great.

    I took a Grab from T3 to T4. About 15 minutes even with traffic. Good service.

    We are now at T4 for a 4 hours wait till our check-in with Air-swift to El Nido is open. There was an earlier flight at 1100 which just left. We tried but it was fully booked and everybody showed up. I was planing to book this flight instead of the 1400 but upon emailing Air-Swift they completely discouraged a short connection. Now, wait 4 hours wait on the terminal floor ( at least the AC is working ), however no lounge and only a small cafe to have something. Wish us luck

  132. By the way, there was a bus running from terminal to terminal, but I had already booked the grab driver by the time I saw it.

  133. “Manila Airport” is not the official name of the airport. And I cannot understand why one would be willing to have their family name attached to the airport given that it has been adjudged one of the worst in the world.
    Can’t wait for the New Manila International Airport to be developed in Bulacan.

  134. Bongo:

    The Airport was renamed after Ninoy Aquino in 1987, 33 years ago. The oppositionist to Marcos was assassinated at the entrance to gate 8 (now 11) od Terminal 1 in 1983. The terminal was completed in 1981and was considered a pretty modern building at that time.

    It also seems that Bulacan is held up and/or blocked as Sangley Point Airport in Cavite has awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to Lucio Tan (think CEO of PAL) to build an airport 4 times capacity of NAIA.

    Its a lot closer to the current airport and Clark is very close to Bulacan. Clark was to take over from Manila but people carriers don’t want two airports. I cant see Bulacan going ahead.

  135. I’ve been flying to MNL 5 or 6 times a year for about 5 years so I know the airport pretty well. I would never dream of transferring there if it involved a terminal change. Everything is inefficient, sometimes long security lines just to get in the terminals, traffic between terminals is often horrible, lines are long, etc. Frankly, I’m surprised your experience was not worse.

    Terminal 3 is by far the best. Terminal 1 is awful and Terminal 2 even worse (I’ve never been lucky enough to use Term. 4). All the lounges in Terminal 1 are dumps.

    If you fly to Manila again, try to use an airline based in Terminal 3. The Singapore lounge in Terminal 3 is quite nice and usually mostly empty – it’s my go-to lounge there. The Cathay Pacific lounge next door is also excellent.

  136. JED is, I think, comes a close second (that is, until the new terminal opens). Remote stands for all flights and having to take a 30 minute drive around the airport to switch between international and domestic terminals, only to end up at the remote stand next to the plane you got off from 90 minutes before. Haha

  137. Remember,this is the country that cant structure an legitimate postal service.pay to get your regular mail.The poster who said terminal3 is the best is correct,also they will try to set a person up whether it be bullets or drugs to extort money from you.This garbage has been going on for several different presidents now.Their security camera system is a joke and for a country to ignore all this for so long must not give a damn about tourists contributing to the economy.priorities are straightup crap.

  138. i also have a bad experience in Philippines Airline. my flight is on August 9.2020 Haneda to MNL my mother and I avail Economy Flex instead economy. coz economy flex has have a Distance seat. so i avail that even the price is twice. but when the airline is ready to on board. my gosh our seat is not distance seat. i ask the cabin crew.but they didnt know what to do.worst ever! i will not ever ever fly again in philippines Airline. bad service ..lie advertise fare benifits.they dont know what passengers avail.they put you grrarrrrr! worst worst worst.!

  139. I strongly agree that both Philippine Airlines and Manila airport are the worst hub that I’ve ever seen in my Life.. Need to sacrifice a lots of patience in this airport..

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