This Airport Guide covers the airside zone – i.e., the restricted, passengers-only area after outbound immigration – at Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 1.
Post last updated from first-hand experience : 01 April 2023 (based on a 25 March 2023 departure)
Post last updated using other information : 04 April 2023
NOTE: This Airport Guide should only be used for general planning and reference purposes. Details may change at any moment and without prior notice.
In this post, we’ll explore the airside (restricted) area at Terminal 1 (T1) of 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 1’s landside area, read my separate report documenting what you can expect to see before immigration and security.
If you’re interested in Terminal 1 arrivals, click on this link to read my guide describing what travellers will encounter when entering the country.
For a broader overview of Terminal 1, click here to navigate back up to my portal post about the entire facility.
To learn more about the airport as a whole, click here to view my comprehensive guide to MNL.
- Immigration and Security
- General Layout
- Shopping and Dining
- Boarding Gates
- Pandemic-Related Measures
IMMIGRATION AND SECURITY
After completing all check-in formalities, you can proceed to the next step: outbound immigration.
Take the door on the left if you have a Philippine passport, or the one on the right if you have a foreign passport. Guards posted at either entrance will inspect your passport and boarding pass before allowing you through.
Within the outbound immigration enclosure, you’ll find separate counters for Philippine passport holders and foreign passport holders. Unlike at inbound immigration, there is currently no automated/e-gate option for departing Filipinos – all booths are manned.
Outbound border control is fairly straightforward – that is, if you’re a leisure traveller. Unless anything regarding your trip warrants closer inspection, the process generally runs thus for ordinary holidaymakers:
- Complete a departure card. There are desks just inside the entrance to the immigration zone with blank forms that you can use (sample form shown below).
- Join the correct queue. There are separate lanes for Philippine and foreign passport holders.
- Present your travel documents to the immigration officer. Most people will only need to submit their passport, boarding pass, and departure card.
- Have your picture digitally recorded.
- Answer questions if asked, which may or may not happen.
- Receive your duly stamped passport and boarding pass.
- Proceed to the security checkpoint.
If you’re travelling overseas for employment, or if you’re a first-time traveller with a hitherto unused passport (which might raise human trafficking concerns), or if other special circumstances exist, additional documents may need to be presented and the interrogation could take longer.
***UPDATE: In a press release dated 31 March 2023 (source), the Bureau of Immigration announced that paper departure cards will be phased out by 01 May 2023. Departing passengers must instead register their details on the government’s Electronic Travel Declaration System – the same website currently used by arriving travellers – within 72 hours (but not less than 3 hours) before their scheduled flight time.***
After immigration comes security screening. The official website of the Office for Transportation Security sets out detailed guidance on what’s permitted in baggage (checked or carry-on).
One VERY IMPORTANT thing to bear in mind whilst undergoing security inspection: DON’T CRACK JOKES ABOUT CARRYING A BOMB. Even a 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.
Most of T1’s shops and dining facilities are concentrated in the building’s mid-section, immediately after outbound security. In the following satellite view, the mid-section is the rectangular centre block connecting the trapezoidal street-side portion above (which houses the check-in hall) to the two “arms” below (where most of the boarding gates are located).
After undergoing security screening, you can proceed either left or right. Pick whichever passage is closer – there’s no real difference as both will take you into the airside zone.
SHOPPING AND DINING
For the purpose of this walkthrough, we’ll take the right-hand exit from security.
The first thing you’ll encounter is a succession of dormant duty free shops. The pandemic has forced retail operations to either wind down or maintain reduced hours, so your shopping options may be painfully limited depending on the time of day.
Further on is a waiting area fitted with basic airport seats. Here you’ll find stores selling food and travel necessities, as well as a bureau de change. There’s also a small souvenir shop nearby where you can pick up themed shirts and various other trinkets.
There are two cafés at the end of the terminal’s mid-section. Both establishments have their own dining areas and offer light meal options in addition to coffeehouse staples.
Apart from the lounges and snack stalls in the two concourses, these cafés are the only places airside where passengers can enjoy a meal.
Heading back down towards security, you’ll encounter another waiting area (mirroring the one we’ve just seen on the other side). This one also has snack shops and bureaux de change.
The rest of the passage, flanked by more duty free shops – mostly closed or operating on shortened trading hours – leads back down to the security screening checkpoint.
The two concourses at the end of T1’s “arms” offer a more limited range of shopping and dining options. For example, the west concourse – housing gates 10-14 – is furnished with a café and two souvenir shops.
You’ll also find a WHSmith convenience store about a third of the way down T1’s west arm.
At present, all of T1’s remaining lounges are located along the two arms that lead to the boarding concourses. There were about half a dozen such facilities throughout the building before the pandemic, but the only ones that appear to have survived are:
- “A” Lounge (third-party; east departures concourse, near Gate 2)
- PAGSS Premium Lounge (third-party; east departures concourse, near Gate 7)
- Marhaba Lounge (third-party; west departures concourse, near Gate 9)
- JAL Sakura Lounge (airline-run; west departures concourse, near Gate 15)
In addition, the Thai Royal Orchid Lounge (airline-run; west departures concourse, near Gate 9) seemed to be in operational, well-maintained condition when I walked past it on 08 November 2022 and 25 March 2023. However, it was closed on both occasions and the Thai Airways website doesn’t state whether it’s currently in service.
Mid-section (Gates 1 and 16)
The two gates in the mid-section are set on a lower level and can only be accessed directly by stairs. Travellers with special needs are taken to these gates via service lifts located elsewhere.
There are no toilets available within the holding areas of these gates. Passengers in need of washroom facilities must run back upstairs, and then head back down once they’ve finished.
West departures concourse (Gates 9-15)
With the exception of Gates 1 and 16, T1’s boarding gates are concentrated in the building’s two arms. Turning right from the mid-section takes us into the western arm, where Gates 9-15 are located.
Gates 9 and 15 are located along the length of the arm, accessed via stairs that lead down to isolated holding areas. There are toilets near the top of the stairs but none down at the gates themselves.
Gates 10-14 are clustered like spokes around a hub-like concourse at the end of the arm. Note that the escalator only goes down, so you’ll need to take the stairs on either side if you wish to go back up. There are toilets available in the middle of the concourse.
East departures concourse (Gates 2-7)
The layout of the eastern arm is very similar to that of the western arm. The two are essentially mirror images of each other (except with different lounges, shops, and snack kiosks).
Gates 2 and 7 are located on a lower level with isolated holding areas, similar to Gates 9 and 15 in the other arm.
At the end of the corridor, stairs and an escalator lead down to a hub that’s virtually identical to its western counterpart.
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. Passengers are not obliged to use masks in airport terminals, but are required to wear them aboard flights departing from (or flying within) the country. Enforcement varies depending on the airline.
Do note that whilst mask wearing is no longer obligatory in most settings – except in public transportation, medical facilities, and other sensitive locations – many 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 immigration and security? CLICK HERE to read my separate Airport Guide documenting MNL T1’s landside zone (i.e., the public area before border control).
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Which is more convenient web check in or counter check in. If we opt to check in online where can we find our boarding gate and where can we drop our baggages in NAIA Terminal 1. Are there senior lanes in tax payment, check in counter and immigration. If travelling with 2 seniors and 1 non senior can we go as a group in the senior lane if there are any and can we go to one Immigration Officer at the same time. Thank you. God Bless
(A) Online vs counter check-in: Whether or not checking in online offers any advantage depends on your airline (e.g.: some might offer a separate bag drop lane, whereas others won’t). In the end, bear in mind that if you’re travelling internationally you MUST present yourselves at a counter even if you’ve already checked in online, as the airline needs to verify your travel documents (such as visas). You can’t skip this step.
(B) Boarding gate: Check the information screens throughout the terminal, or ask the information counter in the main check-in hall. You can also ask the airline personnel at the check-in counter.
(C) Senior lanes: Can’t advise on this first-hand I’m afraid, but you can enquire with the staff on duty if they offer priority service.