This Airport Guide describes what departing domestic passengers 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 : 29 September 2022 (based on 10 September 2022 departure)
Post last updated using other information : 29 September 2022
NOTE: This Airport Guide should be used only for general reference and planning purposes. Details may change at any moment and without prior notice.
In this post, we’ll explore the airside (restricted) area of the domestic 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 outbound security and all passengers-only sections beyond, up to the boarding gates.
If you’re looking for information on Terminal 3’s international wing, please click here to access my guide covering that section of the facility.
To learn more about Terminal 3’s landside area (i.e., the publicly accessible zone before outbound security), 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.
- Outbound Security
- General Layout
- Shops and Restaurants
- Seats and Boarding Gates
- Pandemic-Related Measures
MNL T3 was originally designed to handle international flights only. The terminal’s 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 an eye on the signs and make sure that you’re entering the correct departures zone.
There’s no border control for domestic flights, so it’s straight off to 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. 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.
Here’s a rather crudely made floor plan of the domestic departures area as shown on one of T3’s information displays. (Photograph taken on 10 September 2022.)
Use this with caution as the shops, restaurants, corridors and boarding gates are not drawn to accurate scale, although their placement on the map is more or less correct.
SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS
The airside zone of MNL T3 is similar to the departure lounges 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.)
The largest concentration of both retail and dining establishments can be found in the high-ceilinged main hall right after security. Here you’ll find a pastry shop and a café, each with its own dedicated seating area…
…a collection of food stalls huddled closely together in the middle of the space, serving snacks and light meals…
…and an assortment of shops selling everything from travel essentials to luxury goods. A few shuttered spaces hint at the terrible impact of the pandemic lockdowns, but enough tenants have survived (or reopened) to provide a decent variety of options.
The available choices drop precipitously – along with the ceiling height – the further north you go. That said, you’re never far from a food store even if there’s less variety towards the end.
I might add that if you’re entering the departures lounge from security, north is pretty much the only direction you can head towards. Anyone turning south 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.
The PAGSS Premium Lounge offers a secluded area of seating away from the hustle and bustle of the wider departures area.
Walk-in guests are accepted on a pay-per-use basis. Complimentary access is also available through select loyalty programmes and lounge network memberships (check with your card issuer or service provider to find out if you’re entitled).
Note that this facility is different from the identically named lounge in T3’s international wing (up on Level 4), which cannot be accessed by passengers flying domestically.
SEATS AND BOARDING GATES
In addition to the waiting areas right next to the boarding gates, you’ll find three large concentrations of seating in T3’s domestic half.
The first is located in the main hall, just a few steps after you turn right from security screening.
There’s another group of seats a little further down, extending right up to the edge of the main hall where it meets the long, low-ceilinged pier housing the boarding gates.
Crossing into the northern pier of T3, you’ll find long rows of seats on either side of the wide passageway that leads to Gates 117-120.
More seats are available near the boarding gates, which are located on two different levels.
Gates 117-120 (Level 3)
The boarding gates on Level 3 are fitted with aerobridges. Flights employing larger aircraft (such as the Airbus A330) will normally be assigned to one of the gates on this level.
From the door next to the waiting area, passengers use a long ramp to descend from Level 3 to the boarding pier at Level 2, and thence through the aerobridge into their waiting aircraft.
Gates 131-134 (Ground Level)
The domestic wing of T3 is also fitted with four bus gates at apron/ramp level.
Passengers meeting their flights at Gates 131-134 are sent on an escalator ride deep into the bowels of T3, passing Level 2 (the arrivals concourse) until they reach the ground floor.
The escalator only goes one way – down, down, down – which means that anyone who needs to double back to the main departures lounge on Level 3 must take a lift or hike up a very long set of stairs. For this reason, airport staff posted at the top of the escalator might ask you to double-check that your flight really is departing from one of the ground-level gates before waving you through.
The basic set-up is similar to the gates up on Level 3: rows of seats positioned near the actual boarding doors.
The key difference? Gates 131-134 are not fitted with aerobridges. Passengers are sent aboard buses which will take them to their waiting aircraft.
After the bus arrives at the remote parking stand assigned to their flight, passengers will need to walk out onto the apron and board their aircraft using mobile stairs.
The wearing of face masks remains mandatory on all forms of public transport (whether by land, sea, or air) throughout the Philippines. Executive Order No. 7 (dated 28 October 2022) sets out the current requirements in respect of public health protocols throughout the Philippines. Do note that whilst mask wearing is no longer obligatory in a legal sense – except in public transport and other settings as specified in the Executive Order – the vast majority of locals still don masks both indoors and outdoors. Private establishments might also impose stricter requirements within their own premises and ask all patrons to put on a mask before entering.
Physical distancing (or “social distancing”) remains recommended, but is not rigorously enforced in practice.
Not yet ready to pass through outbound security? CLICK HERE to read my separate Airport Guide documenting MNL T3’s landside zone (i.e., the public area before the last security checkpoint).