Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Departures – Airside (2nd Edition)

This Airport Guide describes what passengers departing on overseas flights can expect to see and do in the airside (passengers-only) zone of Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3.

Post last updated from first-hand experience : 16 June 2022 (based on 03 June 2022 departure)
Post last updated using other information : 28 June 2022

NOTE: This Airport Guide should be used only for general reference purposes. Details may change at any moment and without prior notice.

IMPORTANT – PLEASE READ!: This Airport Guide has been updated to reflect changes brought about by the pandemic. However, because of the very fluid situation around health protocols and border restrictions, the accuracy and completeness of the information set out here cannot be guaranteed. Please refer to the official websites and verified social media channels of airports, airlines, government agencies, and other reliable sources to collect information that is both relevant and up-to-date for your specific needs.

Here, we’ll talk about the airside (restricted) area of the international departures wing at Terminal 3 (T3), Ninoy Aquino International Airport (common abbreviation: “NAIA” / IATA code: MNL) – the main airport serving Greater Manila in the Philippines. For our purposes, “airside” includes border control and all passengers-only sections beyond, up to the boarding gates.

To learn more about Terminal 3’s landside area (i.e., the publicly accessible zone before immigration), please read my separate report documenting what you can expect to see in that part of the building.

For a broader overview of Terminal 3, please click here to navigate back up to my portal post about the entire facility.

To learn more about the airport as a whole, please click here to view my comprehensive guide to MNL.

CONTENTS

IMMIGRATION AND SECURITY

MNL T3 was originally designed to serve only international flights. The awkward split into international and domestic halves came about shortly before its 2008 partial opening, although there are plans to shift domestic routes over to T2 in the coming years.

Until that happens, keep your eyes on the signs and your feet directed towards “International Departures”.

Outbound border control is fairly straightforward at T3 – that is, if you’re a leisure traveller. Unless anything regarding your trip warrants closer inspection, the process generally runs thus for ordinary holidaymakers:

  1. Complete a departure card. There are desks just outside the entrance to the immigration zone with blank forms that you can use (sample shown below).
  2. Join the correct queue. There are separate counters for Philippine and foreign passport holders.
  3. Present your travel documents to the immigration officer. Passport, boarding pass, and departure card. I don’t recall ever being asked for more than that, but anyone who raises red flags – such as a first-time traveller – might, just might, be asked to provide further proof that they really are travelling for the reason/s they’ve stated. Have your hotel reservations and other evidence close to hand just in case.
  4. Have your picture digitally recorded. Needless to say, the face mask that you’re wearing in accordance with local regulations – yes, they’re still mandatory hereabouts – should have already been pulled down or taken off by this point. Fingerprints were also collected in the recent past, but not currently; whether this is a pandemic-related suspension or a permanent change I can’t say.
  5. Answer questions if asked, which may or may not happen.
  6. Receive your duly stamped passport and boarding pass.
  7. Put your mask back on. Awfully tempting to “forget” this bit, I know.
  8. Proceed to the security checkpoint.
Bureau of Immigration departure card from MNL T3 (photographed 03 June 2022).

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Of course, if you’re travelling overseas for employment or if other special circumstances exist, additional documents will need to be presented and the interrogation might take longer. This departure guide from Philippine Airlines will give you some idea of what such cases might involve.

Now be warned: expect long queues whenever passenger traffic is high. The four-hour recommended lead time for getting to the airport ahead of an international departure (up from the usual three hours before the pandemic ) should be regarded as an absolute minimum, rather than a comfortable margin. Better stuck waiting in T3 with time to kill then stuck outside weeping over a missed flight.

After immigration comes security – the second round of inspection after the initial scan at the terminal entrances. This bit’s fairly routine: bag through the scanner, you through the detector.

One VERY IMPORTANT thing to bear in mind whilst undergoing security screening: DON’T CRACK JOKES ABOUT CARRYING A BOMB. It’s not that the staff are lacking in humour; rather, it’s something laid down in a decades-old presidential edict (you can read the full decree if interested). Even a simple and seemingly obvious joke about having explosives on your person or in your luggage will land you in very, VERY deep trouble. The jocular nature of such a remark is no defence, and neither is the absence of an actual bomb upon subsequent inspection. At worst, you’ll face five years in prison and a fine to boot. DON’T DO IT.

GENERAL LAYOUT

Here’s a laughably imprecise floor plan of the international departures area, as shown on one of T3’s information displays. (Photo originally taken on 12 September 2019; rechecked on 22 January 2020 with no difference observed.)

I should point out that there’s been a nationwide crackdown on smoking within buildings (public and private alike), so the little cigarette icons on the map might no longer signify what they’re meant to indicate. I can’t say if any smoking facilities are still available at T3 outside of the lounges – as a non-smoker I’ve never bothered to ask – but if you need to light up then it may be an idea to make enquiries beforehand…or prepare to abstain for the duration.

There was at least one vaping room in operation as of my most recent visit to T3 (on 03 June 2022). A sign on the door stated that conventional smoking was prohibited within – customers could only use vapes.

In the past, I was made aware of an authorised smoking area outside the terminal building (ask the staff for details), but this is inaccessible once you’ve gone airside.

SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS (Level 3)

The airside zone of MNL T3 is similar to the departures areas you’ll see in other large airport terminals.

By this, I mean that it’s really just a shopping centre with aerobridges bolted to the walls. (A rather bland, depressing, half-finished shopping centre at that.)

There’s less variety to be found these days, given that a number of shops have had to cease trading due to the pandemic. The main duty free outlet is still in business, however.

As you move further south, you’ll begin to encounter cafés and restaurants. There isn’t anything in the way of fine dining hereabouts, but you won’t go hungry unless you’re the pickiest of eaters (or have very specific dietary requirements). By and large, the range of airside vittles on offer at T3 is wider and better than in either T1 or T2, even if it never reaches gourmet levels.

The options thin out the further south you go. Even so, the shops will keep in step with you almost up to the very tip (interspersed with empty retail spaces gouged out by the corona lockdowns). For instance, you’ll find a WHSmith quite far along if you’re in need of basic travel necessities and can’t be bothered to turn back.

Actually, if you’re coming from immigration/security, south is pretty much the only direction you can head towards. Anyone turning north will shortly run into this.

That glass-and-steel partition runs down the centre of the building, from the immigration zone through to the boarding area. The purpose of this barrier is to separate T3’s international and domestic halves – an absurd “temporary” arrangement that’s gone on for years and years.

Toilets can be found at regular intervals across the length of the terminal building. Not particularly well-equipped or scrupulously maintained (at least from what I’ve seen of the gents’), but they’ll do the job.

LOUNGES (Level 4)

T3’s lounges are located one level above the boarding area. Follow the signs labelled “Airline Lounges” until you reach a set of lifts and stairs leading up to the next floor.

You’ll find three third-party lounges and two airline-operated facilities here on Level 4. Unless you’re flying with Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific (who run their own spaces) – or enjoy access through them via special arrangements (e.g.; codeshare, alliance programmes) – any entitlement given by your airline will be for one of the three third-party lounges.

Turn left from the lifts and you’ll find the commercially operated Pacific Club lounge, overlooking the domestic half of the terminal. (Note: The entire lounge floor – including the area directly above domestic departures – is part of the international zone and only accessible to passengers flying overseas.) [Note: PriorityPass describes this lounge as being “temporarily closed” – source here – but I haven’t verified this first-hand.]

Head right and you’ll pass several lounges in sequence. First, there’s the Cathay Pacific lounge [note: temporarily closed until further notice – source here], operated by the Hong Kong-based airline for its passengers and tiered frequent flyers. Next door is the Silver Kris lounge, run by Singapore Airlines and exclusive to its own premium clients.

The remaining two lounges are commercially run facilities. There’s the Marhaba Lounge – formerly known as the “Skyview Lounge” – and further down the hall is the PAGSS Lounge. Both are contracted to serve certain airlines, but also accept walk-in guests for a fee.

Detailed reports/reviews are available for the following T3 lounges that I’ve personally used (click on each lounge name to learn more):

SEATS AND BOARDING GATES

The passenger waiting areas and boarding gates are all on Level 3, together with retail and dining.

Over by the gates, there’s a depressing lack of variety where seating is concerned. Row after row of near-identical airport chairs, placed in awkward configurations that restrict personal space and movement.

Charging points are few and far between. Those that do exist are inconveniently set up as standalone stations (like the one shown below) rather than being fitted into or next to the seats.

Tables are nowhere to be found – other than in dining establishments and lounges – so using a portable computer or consuming a meal might pose a challenge.

T3 also has a number of restricted holding areas, utilised mainly for US-bound flights that require more stringent security. These sections are screened off from the rest of the terminal by glass-and-steel walls (like the one on the right side of the following picture). Access is regulated by an extra checkpoint equipped with metal detectors and baggage scanners.

Full-service airlines – as well as large aircraft employed by any airline, LCCs included – normally dock at gates close to the middle of the terminal building. The boarding piers attached to these gates are fitted with double aerobridges, but they’re not always deployed together (typically only one will be in service regardless of aircraft size).

LCC flights often use the distant gates along the the south-eastern finger of T3, a very long walk from immigration and security. For example, I’ve regularly boarded narrow-body aircraft docked at Gate 105/106, a pair sitting all the way at the very tip of the terminal.

If your assigned boarding point is in one of these remote corners of T3, you’ll want to make use of the (painfully few) moving walkways whenever possible.

The gates at the far end are designed for smaller planes and are equipped either with a single aerobridge or – as in the case of Gate 105/106 – with twin aerobridges that can each be connected to a different aircraft.

One consistent element of T3’s larger gates is the way in which people are funnelled into planes. At most gates, passengers use a long ramp to descend from the departures floor to the boarding pier, and thence through the aerobridges into their waiting aircraft.

T3’s domestic wing (not covered in this guide) also has a number of bus gates at tarmac level, from which passengers are transported to aircraft waiting at remote parking stands.

PANDEMIC-RELATED MEASURES

The wearing of face masks remains mandatory in all public spaces and all forms of public transport (whether by land, sea, or air) throughout the Philippines. Please bear in mind that their use is required by the Philippine government and is not within the discretion of terminal management or individual business establishments. Current rules stipulate that everyone must don a face mask at all times, with only the following permitted exceptions (source – see page 20):

  • Whilst eating or drinking.
  • When participating in team or individual sports within properly ventilated venues.
  • Whilst engaging in outdoor sports or exercise in settings where physical distance can be maintained.

Face shields are no longer required.

Physical distancing (or “social distancing”) remains recommended, but is not rigorously enforced in practice.

From 28 November 2020, all passengers were required to install the TRAZE contract tracing app before using any airport in the Philippines. This is still described as mandatory on some – but not all – airline websites, and unless an authoritative source advises to the contrary it may be best to err on the side of caution and download the app in advance. That said, when I last flew out of T3 (on 03 June 2022), at no point was I ever asked to show, scan, or in any way use the app, and this observation is corroborated by anecdotal evidence from other travellers.

Finally, keep in mind that the loosened restrictions currently in place at the airport are contingent on the wider area (i.e., Metro Manila) remaining at Alert Level 1, the lowest tier in the government’s quarantine and transmission risk management system. The latest set of designations (announced on 27 June 2022) keeps Metro Manila in Level 1 until 15 July 2022 (source). A spike in virus cases and hospitalisations may lead to the imposition of a higher alert level, and consequently trigger the reintroduction of tighter control measures. Stay abreast of local news and monitor developments on the IATF website (especially new resolutions) in order to anticipate what, if any, rules might be in force on the day you travel.

Not yet ready to pass through immigration and security? CLICK HERE to read my separate Airport Guide documenting MNL T3’s landside zone (i.e., the public area before border control).

4 responses to “Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Departures – Airside (2nd Edition)

  1. Pingback: Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Departures – Landside (2nd Edition) | Within striking distance·

  2. Pingback: Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Departures – Airside | Within striking distance·

  3. Pingback: Airport Guide: Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (MNL T3) | Within striking distance·

  4. Pingback: Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 3, International Arrivals | Within striking distance·

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