I’ve been wanting to take a peek at the Philippine’s premier (or so they say) air terminal for the longest time since the contractor finished capping their imposing creation with a roof. Unfortunately, legal matters prevented its early inauguration. Everybody was afraid that rust would already check in at the mothballed terminal. It’s a good thing that the authorities were able to open it, albeit just 90-95% complete.

While the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 is the largest airport in the country, I can’t say that it’s the most splendid. Aesthetically, it’s a bit wanting. I find Terminal 2 more charming, although it’s slowly showing signs of wear and tear. T3 didn’t even elicit in me that awe effect that Terminal 1 had when I first saw it. You may argue that airports don’t have to look grand as long as it functions well. But airports are the first thing that visitors see in the country where they’re sojourning. And with Filipinos being known to show everything that’s good and grand in their abode whenever they’re welcoming guests therein, it’s quite surprising to see that they didn’t seem to have given their best for that all-important first impression.

But in fairness to those who conceived the design of the terminal, it is spacious and passenger-friendly. To begin with, it has a number of entrances. Terminal 2 only has one, so you could just imagine the long line that slowly slithers in it. The number of check-in counters in T3 goes beyond the number of fingers, appendages, or protrusions in my body. In other words, it’s an unlimited resource. But for some reason, long queues greeted me and my special someone (hi, dear :) ) on our 6:35 a.m. flight to Cebu. We got left by the plane, but that’s another story.

The only bottleneck that we encountered in the building was in the final passenger and baggage check that borders the check-in area and the departure lounges. There were several x-ray machines available for use. However, for some reason, only one was utilized.

It’s comforting to know that a generous amount of floor area was devoted to gates and waiting lounges. There are even walkalators scattered in the area (a few more would be very much appreciated). A considerable amount of space has also been set aside for shops. Only a few stalls/commercial spaces were occupied, though. Maybe more would come in as the number of flights increases in the terminal.

As with the departure area, the arrival hall is expansive. Long waits at the baggage carousels are a rarity as the terminal features 7 huge ones. The hall also offers an area for the passengers’ waiting friends and relatives, a feature or distinction that the other two terminals do not have as they don’t allow non-passengers inside the building.

While the terminal isn’t as enormous as Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok or as grand as Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, it’s comforting to know that we already have an airport that’s presentable and efficient. A trip to or via T3 is still a treat, considering what we’ve been asked to deal with a few years ago whenever we’re taking local flights (remember the old domestic terminal?). Be sure to bring along with you jackets and sweaters that are suitable for Siberia-like temperatures. This cavernous terminal can get extremely cold, especially during the early mornings. I learned that the hard way.


  • Raul

    so, since when did AirAsia start using the Terminal 3? how about AirAsia going to Cebu?

  • Ruel

    It hasn’t. But I hope they’ll consider it. But, then again, it’s a good thing that they’re using Clark. That airport could use some more passenger traffic. It has a good potential of hosting a good and primary airport in the future.

    The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is also a good terminal. I remember a time when it put to shame the one we have in Manila (the old domestic terminal). Hope the airport authorities would consider making some renovations or building another terminal

  • Lo

    What is the best (cheap) way to catch a taxi from Manila NAIA T3 into town and not get ripped off?

  • Ruel

    hmm it’s still the white taxis parked or passing by outside the terminal. there are also shuttles that will take you a nearby MRT station (EDSA-TAFT). But if you want to play safe, just take the yellow cabs inside the terminal, especially if you’ll be going to nearby areas only, such as makati.

  • Eliza

    wuaw.. the airport is really nice and seems comfortable, even i haven’t been there.. the floor are really shiny.. and slipery..

  • Andrew

    only thing i wish to hear is when air asia fly to cebu which is the airport hub for visayas and mindanao area….