After much excitement over the NAIA Terminal 3 opening, I was finally able to experience the terminal personally last weekend and yesterday night. Together with Eric and Melo, I flew out of Manila and into Cebu to watch (and shoot!) the Pasigarbo sa Sugbu, a festival of all Cebu festivals (which is different from Sinulog).
Now, I heard of horror stories about the terminal: flights getting delayed because they can’t assign a gate to use because most of it are broken, facilities not working properly, etc. Fortunately, none of these things happened to us. I guess the two weeks that the terminal has been in operation have helped them find solutions on making the most out of the huge airport.
The first thing that would greet you when you enter the airport premises are the seperate lanes for private and public transport. Then, as you enter the cavernous terminal, you’re met with a blast of cold air. It’s too cold inside! Unlike the other airports, well wishers can accompany the passenger inside the terminal. There are food kioks in the outer area (Kopi Roti, Jollibee), so families and friends can spend some more time together before parting. Starting at the check-in counters, passengers are on their own. Well wishers, however, can go up the viewing deck and have a bird’s eye view of the area after the Immigration booths.
The airport was huge. Because not all flights have been moved to the terminal, the only crowded places are the waiting areas near the boarding gates. Beyond the Immigration, there’s a Delifrance, Go Nuts Donuts, and a convenience store, ensuring that you don’t go hungry while you wait for your plane. Smokers can likewise enjoy a stick or two inside the smoking area (which is basically an empty room with a window open and a view of the Makati and Taguig skyline).
Lavatories are clean and have plenty of stalls. I saw some water fountain in some places, but wasn’t able to check whether they’re already functional. There are also power points around the waiting area, so you can charge your cellphone and camera batteries or plug in your laptop while you catch up on work (not sure if there’s Wi-Fi inside the airport though). And to further empahsize the size of the airport, there’s a walkalator, a standard feature in some of the world’s biggest and busiest airports.
Each gate has facilities for front and middle loading. Unfortunately, these aren’t being utilized. We had to walk down a flight of stairs and into the tarmac to board the planes. It’s the same for arrivals. Depending on where your plane parked, there’s a pretty long walk from the plane to the terminal entrance. It’s fairly easy to find your way to the exit, as there are signs along the way. On the way out, we passed through the un-manned immigration booths and Customs inspection tables. Beyond that, are the doors that takes you out into Manila.
Similar to the old international terminal, passengers are advised to exit on the doors specified for the first letter of their surnames. This is to make it easy for friends and family coming to pick up their loved ones. If you’re taking a cab home, you have three options: take the expensive Airport Taxi, which has a fixed price (super expensive), a “metered” yellow taxi (I hear from Melo that they were charging a flat rate of Php 400. What the heck, right?), or the regular (and true) metered taxi. The first thing you’d see when you step out of the terminal are the airport taxis. Keep walking to the right and you’d see the line of Yellow taxis. I had a bad feeling about these yellow taxis, as I saw a huge concentration of their ilk in the airport parking lot, so I kept on walking, knowing that there should be a line for regular taxis, since I saw an MGE taxi pass by as I stepped out of the airport doors. True enough, there was a line of MGE and EMP taxis at the very end of the terminal, with nobody else lined up, since everybody’s already queued up for the airport or the Yellow taxi. Not only did I have to line up for a cab, the driver didn’t even give me a spiel about adding Php50 to the meter or trying to bargain a price for the ride to Quezon City.
All in all, I’m quite happy with my NAIA T3 experience. I can’t comment on the effectivity of the conveyor belts though, since I didn’t check in my bags (which was a boon, because I was able to get out of the airport before the hoard went out and a long queue formed at the taxi stands). I just hope my experience the next time I use the airport would be just as good.