Metro Manila · Airports & Airlines
The country around the Megacity has everything you could wish for, from sandy beaches to breath-taking mountains, from pristine water to untouched deep jungle. As the archipelago consists of 7107 islands (give or take some during high-tide and low-tide), it is almost a necessity to hop on a plane from time to time to reach your destination.
Click here for our presentation of prime destinations in the Philippines.
It is possible to get to most parts of the country without plane but it is not recommended for most Megacitizens - unless you are a backpacker for whom the journey is its own reward. Traveling long distances by bus and ferry takes a lot of time, is not necessarily safe, and your body will definitely not enjoy it. The good news is that you can fly to almost everywhere from the Megacity. There are regular and low budget options for everyone to choose from.
From a personal experience, and we have been flying around in the Philippines and the whole region quite a lot, it is much safer to fly around than one might think. The airports are quite run-down but airplanes and staff are good and obviously everyone working in Philippine aviation adapted well to thunderstorms, typhoons and so on.
Concerning the Manila Airport NAIA (stands for Ninoy Aquino International Airport), a lot has been said about it in the recent years. It has been voted the worst international airport worldwide in 2011. Though not a lot has changed, you can already see that improvements are being made and more are on track and being discussed. Noteworthy is that all tickets being issued now include the 'terminal fee'. The terminal fee used to be a payment you have to make at the airports in addition to your ticket and ranged between 20 Pesos (small local airport for domestic flights) and 750 Pesos (NAIA for international flights). NAIA has 4 terminals that are not connected - so make sure you go to go to the right one.
Terminal 1 is the international Terminal. All international flights - except for Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, Zest Airways and All Nippon - are departing from Terminal 1.
Terminal 2 is the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Terminal. All domestic and international PAL flights are departing from this terminal.
Terminal 3 hosts Airphil Express and Cebu Pacific flights, domestic as well as international ones. It also hosts All Nippon Airways from Japan.
Terminal 4 is also known as the old 'Manila Domestic Airport'. Some cab drivers may have difficulties to find it if you tell them only 'Terminal 4'. Terminal 4 hosts all Zest Airways, Southeast Asian Airlines, and Tigerair Philippines flights.
You need the following documents to check-in and board an airplane at NAIA.
For Domestic Flights you need a valid identification (ID) card (company, school, government issued: Driver's license, TIN, SSS, Barangay, Voter's, PRC and the likes) with picture and e-ticket itinerary. From experience, foreign ID cards also work. To be on the safe side, bring your passport along the first time you try to check-in with your foreign ID card.
For International Flights bring a valid passport, visa and/or other travel documents required for the country of destination, and passenger e-ticket itinerary. If you plan to go back to the Philippines, DO NOT FORGET to take your return ticket from the Philippines to your own country AND/OR your card of residence for the Philippines with you. When boarding a plane back to the Philippines (e.g. after a business trip) you will be asked to present a return ticket to your home country or a valid long term/residence VISA for the Philippines.
Being an archipelago, the main way to get to the Philippines is by airplane. Here we list down all the local and international airlines that fly to the country, with passenger as well as cargo planes. In case you prefer flying by yourself, we also listed down places in Metro Manila where you can do a flight training and get a pilot's license.
'Asia’s first, shining through' is the slogan of Philippines' national airline, Philippine Airlines (PAL). Philippine Airlines is the only carrier accredited by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the Operational Safety Audit (IOASA). It departs from Terminal 2 (Philippine Airlines Terminal) to a high number of domestic and international destinations.
The motto is: 'Cebu Pacific Air - It’s time everyone flies'. Cebu Pacific is the prime low-cost airline of the Philippines for domestic operations and thus revolutionized flying, offering 'every Juan' (symbolic nickname for a Filipino) the opportunity to fly. The airline also features a growing number of international destinations in Southeast Asia, such as Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore.
Airphil Express (Airphil) is a daughter company of Philippine Airlines. It therefore enjoys the fame as being the low-cost alternative to the Philippine national airline. Compared to other budget airlines, Airphil is very forthcoming with its luggage policy. 15 Kg luggage are already included in the fare. When comparing costs, this knowledge might come in handy.
Zest Airways (ZestAir) formerly known as Asian Spirit (the first airline in the Philippines to be run as a cooperative) is one of the least known domestic airlines in the country. It offers domestic and international tourist services.
Singapore-based Tigerair has sold its airline Tigerair Philippines to Cebu Pacific in January 2014. Nevertheless, the airline will be kept as an independent brand, flying to destinations all over East and Southeast Asia.
South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) is the second-oldest airline in the Philippines. Since 2011 it is owned by Singapore-based Tiger Airways with 40% of its market share. SEAIR services domestic and international routes (the latter not from the airport in the Megacity) and can also be regarded as a low-cost airline.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the country’s major airport. It serves as the hub for the Philippines’ flag carriers. Also known as the Manila International Airport, NAIA is the point of entry for most international visitors of the Philippines as well as returning Overseas Filipino Workers from all continents.
Clark is a rapidly growing airport, located roughly 80 kilometers north of Metro Manila. You can get some cheap flights from CRK, but you should think twice if it is really worth the hassle.