Manila's International Airport Has Four Terminals

Travelers, as well as some Filipinos, might be confused to hear about that there are five airports in Manila; or two airports in Manila with four terminals.

Let's name them.
  1. NAIA-1 aka Terminal 1
  2. NAIA-2 aka Terminal 2, Centennial Airport
  3. NAIA-3 aka Terminal 3
  4. NAIA-4 aka Terminal 4, Domestic Airport
  5. Clark International Airport aka Clark Airport, DMIA
The truth is there is only one airport in Metro Manila which is NAIA in Pasay. The Clark International Airport (CRK) is in Pampanga, not in Metro Manila.

NAIA, formerly MIA or Manila International Airport(MNL), has 4 terminals, each sharing the same runway but separate gates or entrances. Each terminal is, at least, 1 km away from each other. So, walking from one terminal to another is not practical. If you have a connecting flight from Terminal 1 to other terminals, there is a free airport shuttle service that you can avail yourself of.

The Clark International Airport

Clark Airport, is situated in Angeles, Pampanga. It is not located in Manila. Angeles City is about 83.4 kms away from Metro Manila, a one-hour drive from NLEX point of entry, or 2 hours from Pasay City, where NAIA is located. A tourist who is not familiar as to which is which, after landing in Clark, might be surprised to learn that he had to travel more than an hour to get to his hotel in Makati. If a tourist intends to visit places in the North Luzon, such as Vigan, then the Clark airport is the better point of landing. If he intends to visit the southern part of Luzon, such as CamSur, NAIA in Pasay City is the better point of landing.

The idea of making Clark International Airport as a Manila point of landing might have been raised when a website, based on traveler's votes, branded NAIA as the World's Worst Airport in 2012. Somebody must have suggested or planned to move NAIA, not physically, of course, to the Clark International Airport. Some websites, though, promote the Clark Airport as Manila's landing point.

Tourists, remember therefore, that the Clark airport is in Angeles City, not in Metro Manila.

The NAIA Domestic Airport

Metro Manila's domestic airport is also known as the NAIA Terminal 4 or simply Domestic Airport. It is located along Domestic Rd, Pasay, about 2 kms away from NAIA-1. Airlines that the Terminal 4 serve are Seair, Air Asia Zest (formerly ZestAir), Tiger Air, and Sky Pasada. The Domestic Airport was built in 1948. It used to accommodate international flights.

The NAIA Terminal 1

All international flights, except PAL and Cebu Pacific, depart and arrive through this terminal. Access to NAIA-1 is via Ninoy Aquino Ave.

In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos authorized the development of the new MIA, which is now NAIA Terminal 1. Its construction started in 1978 and started operating in 1981. NAIA-1 was the terminal battered with negative reviews. The airport has lost its class, perhaps, due to poor maintenance and management. In the 80s when it was still new, the new MIA was impressive, first-class, and a state-of-the-art. It was engineered by Renardet-Sauti, Transplan, and F.F. Cruz Consultants; and designed by Architect L.V. Locsin & Associates. The new MIA project cost US$29.6 million financed with a loan from ADB.

The NAIA Terminal 2

Currently, only PAL international and domestic flights are served in Terminal 2. NAIA Terminal 2 is about 889 meters from NAIA Terminal 1. Access to NAIA-2 is via NAIA Rd.

The NAIA Terminal 2 is more popularly known as the Centennial Airport. Its construction was completed in 1998 and it began operating in 1999. Originally, it was planned to serve domestic flights but later modified to accommodate international flights as well. The Centennial terminal was designed by Aéroports de Paris. The project was financed by a loan from France (30-million-franc) and Japan (18.12 billion yen). (Ref: Fraport AG and the NAIA-3 Debacle: A Case Study by Ben Kritz)

The NAIA Terminal 3

NAIA-3 serves both international and domestic flights for Cebu Pacific. It also serves international flights for All Nippon Airways and Air Asia Zest; and domestic flights for PAL Express. PAL Express and AirPhil Express are subsidiaries of PAL. AirPhil Express, formerly Air Philippines, has been rebranded as PAL Express in March 2013.

Driving from NAIA-1 to NAIA-3 is about 4.4 kms. Access to NAIA-3 is via Andrews Ave. In August 2014, the NAIA Terminal 3 will begin began serving 5 additional international air carriers such as Delta Airlines, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates Airlines.

Construction of Terminal 3 started in 1997. It began operating in 2008 serving Cebu Pacific domestic and international flights. Its opening was delayed due to a legal battle among its investors and the Philippine government. For a paper related to this, read Fraport AG and the NAIA-3 Debacle: A Case Study by Ben Kritz.

In A Nutshell

Clark International Airport is in Angeles City in Pampanga; not in Metro Manila. NAIA is in Pasay, Metro Manila. NAIA has 4 terminals: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Terminal 2 serves only PAL international and domestic flights. Terminal 3 serves only Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, All Nippon Airways, and Air Asia Zest flights; and soon Delta Airlines, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates Airlines. All other domestic flights are served through Terminal 4. All other international flights are served through Terminal 1.

NAIA-1 May Be One Of the World's Worst Airport But...

NAIA-1 is an airport terminal, not the airport. Tourists visit the Philippines, not to view the airports, but to enjoy the beautiful nature that the Philippines still have. Travelers who voted against NAIA-1 expressed their sad and bad experiences when they arrived or departed from the terminal. Their reviews had points and were agreeable in some respects but it would be unfair to generalize especially if they had not seen yet NAIA-2 and NAIA-3 terminals which were designed by world-class engineers and architects. Sad to say, most commercial flights arrive and depart at NAIA-1. For that reason, almost all tourists get a glimpse of one of the world's "worst airport". If they want to enjoy a better and nicer terminal, they should book their flights via PAL, Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, AirPhil Express, Delta Airlines, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon Airways, and Emirates Airlines.
Tourists visit the Philippines to enjoy its beautiful nature, not to sleep in the airport.

An Airport Is Not A Hotel

An airport is not a hotel or a camp where travelers can just sleep anywhere, worst, on the floor. The most decent way is to take a seat, then take a nap. "No sleeping on the floor" in airports is a good policy. The irony is if one of the best airports in the world is full of sleeping travelers on the floor, it makes it the worst airport in the world.

Airport Names, Politics, and SEO

You must be wondering how these three are related?

When Cory Aquino was president, she named the Manila International Airport after her husband Ninoy Aquino; thus, Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Quite an irony because NAIA-1 was Marcos's idea. When Gloria Macapagal was president, she named the Clark International Airport after her father Diosdado Macapagal; thus, Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. Clark International Airport, however, maintained its original name as published on its website.

What's in a name? It is pride, politics, and opportunism.

In the SEO point of view, naming an airport to someone unknown is a disadvantage especially if you own a site that promotes commercial flights and travels. When searching on Google, Bing or Yahoo, a traveler would type "manila airport", not "ninoy aquino airport" for the reason that he has no idea where "ninoy" is. If he hears about the Munich Airport, he immediately understands that this airport is in Munich. Mention to him about Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you leave him in wonder "where the hell is ninoy aquino international airport?"

Web site owners, therefore, should make a point that they attach the word "manila" to NAIA (even if NAIA is actually in Pasay) and "clark" to DMIA (even if DMIA is exactly in Angeles) for the reason that these are the terms that the public are more familiar with. So, whenever a traveler searches on the Web for the airport in Manila, he will find "Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport."