Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 1, Departures – Airside

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 : 08 December 2022 (based on 08 November 2022 departure)
Post last updated using other information : 08 December 2022

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 (i.e., the zone before immigration), please read my separate report documenting what you can expect to see in that part of the building.

If you’re interested in Terminal 1 arrivals, click on this link to read my guide covering what passengers from overseas will encounter when entering the country.

For a broader overview of Terminal 1, 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

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Join the correct queue. There are separate lanes for Philippine and foreign passport holders.
  3. Present your travel documents to the immigration officer. Most people will only need to submit their passport, boarding pass, and departure card.
  4. Have your picture digitally recorded.
  5. Answer questions if asked, which may or may not happen.
  6. Receive your duly stamped passport and boarding pass.
  7. Proceed to the security checkpoint.
Bureau of Immigration departure card from MNL T3 (photographed 03 June 2022).

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.

Be warned: expect long queues whenever passenger traffic is high. The three- to four-hour recommended lead time for getting to the airport ahead of an international departure should be regarded as a minimum, rather than a comfortable margin.

After immigration comes security inspection. This process is similar to the theatre one might encounter at other airports: luggage into the scanner, people through the detector, liquids in transparent bags and all the rest.

One VERY IMPORTANT thing to bear in mind whilst undergoing security screening: 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.

GENERAL LAYOUT

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

Mid-section

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. (The Hari Raya café-restaurant on the floor above was still “temporarily closed” as of 08 November 2022.)

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 running on curtailed trading hours – leads back down to security.

Departures concourses

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.

LOUNGES

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:

  • 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 operationally-ready condition when I walked past it on 08 November 2022. However, it was closed at the time and the Thai Airways website doesn’t state whether it’s currently in service.

BOARDING GATES

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.

PANDEMIC-RELATED MEASURES

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 many settings – except in public transportation, medical facilities, and other sensitive locations 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 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).

3 responses to “Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 1, Departures – Airside

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

  2. Pingback: Airport Guide: NAIA (MNL) Terminal 1, Arrivals | Within striking distance·

  3. Pingback: Airport Guide: Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (MNL T1) | Within striking distance·

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