Tuesday, 9 Aug, 2022

I flew out of what was once considered the worst airport in the world. Except for a few hiccups, it was a smooth experience.

Flying with Philippine Airlines via business class from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.Marielle Descalsota/InsiderFor years, Manila's Ninoy..

title Flying with Philippine Airlines via business class from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
  • For years, Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport was ranked the world's worst airport.
  • Local officials said "significant improvements" were made under the Duterte administration.
  • I flew business class from the airport and was surprised by its quality lounge and delicious food.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the main airport of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (resized).
Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

NAIA was named after Benigno Aquino Jr., a politician who was killed on the tarmac in August 1983. It had previously been known as Manila International Airport. NAIA served over 48 million people in 2019, with some 42 passenger airlines operating at the airport, an airport representative told Insider.

For years, NAIA ranked consistently among the worst airports in the world. It was named the world's worst airport from 2011 to 2013 by widely cited travel website Guide to Sleeping in Airports, which wrote that NAIA is "large and frustrating," and advised travelers to "expect to wait in numerous long lines as you make your way to your flight."

In early 2016, the airport had a 40% on-time performance OTP, according to a report by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).

NAIA has since worked to clean up its image. It's undergone a series of upgrades and renovations, and in September 2019, it recorded an 83% OTP from national carriers.

"Despite challenges, setbacks, and criticisms, it is undeniable that the country's main gateway – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) – has come a long way from where it was before," the MIAA said in a May 2022 statement seen by Insider. The authority added that it aims to give passengers a "safe, reliable, convenient, and comfortable travel."

Even so, NAIA currently has a 3/10 rating on UK-based airline- and airport-customer review site Skytrax from over 360 reviews. Skytrax describes the airport as "congested" with "excessive" immigration and security queues.

"The floors in the transit waiting area looked like they hadn't been mopped or cleaned in days,"a South Korean passenger wrote on Skytrax in March 2020. "By far the worst airport in Asia I have been to," she added.

I've been flying in and out of NAIA since I was a child, and I remember how chaotic my experiences at the airport were in the mid and late 2000s.
Terminal 2 at NAIA.
Terminal 2 at NAIA.

Curious to experience it now, as an adult, I recently booked a business class flight from Manila to Singapore via the country's national carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL).

I spent around 1,600 Singapore dollars (around $1,152) for a return ticket. In comparison, a return economy ticket cost around S$650 ($470). The flight from Manila to Singapore takes around three-and-a-half hours.

It took about 40 minutes to drive to NAIA's Terminal 2 from Makati, the country's financial and economic center. There was minimal traffic and the initial security checks were a breeze. 

Terminal 2 is exclusive to PAL international and domestic flights.

It didn't take long before I encountered the first problem: I tried to check in via the business class counter, but there was nobody there.
The business class counter at Philippine Airlines.
The business class counter at Philippine Airlines.

There were several economy class counters. Snaking queues led up to them.

There was only one counter allocated for business class. It had a red carpet laid out in front of it, but there was no one manning the counter. When I asked another staff member for help, he told me to check in via economy.

I waited for staff to show up at the counter for 15 minutes, and when nobody did, I joined the long line at economy.
The economy counters at Philippine Airlines.
The economy counters at Philippine Airlines.

The economy counter was fully staffed and the line was surprisingly speedy. 

The staff members were efficient: After checking my passport, travel details, and vaccination certificates, I was told to make my way through immigration. 

But the security ended up stopping me as I was missing a departure card. I had to double back and request one from the ticketing counter.

After filling out the form, I made my way through immigration and security, which took less than 10 minutes. I spotted the Mabuhay Lounge, PAL's business class lounge, at the corner of the terminal.
The Mabuhay Lounge.
The Mabuhay Lounge.

The lounge was spacious and had simple furnishings. There were fewer than five people at the lounge, which meant that service was prompt and attentive. 

I took a seat near the bar, where I perused the menu. Unlike other lounges that serve food buffet-style, Mabuhay Lounge offers unlimited a la carte orders. It had Asian, Western, and Filipino fare.

The food was made to order, and it was delicious.
Food at the Mabuhay Lounge.
Food at the Mabuhay Lounge.

I had the fish sisig, which is a sizzling hot plate dish, a chicken kebab, and toast. The sisig was one of the best I've ever had — it tasted better than many of the Filipino restaurants I've dined at. I topped off my order with Japanese potstickers and a muffin, which were also delicious. 

The bar had a dedicated staff member who was mixing drinks on demand. The lounge's margarita and long island iced tea were on par with drinks from some of my favorite bars. 

My flight ended up being delayed by 40 minutes. I didn't even mind, because the lounge was so comfortable.

When I made my way to the gate, I found a chaotic scene and long lines of people behind the counters.
The gates at NAIA Terminal 2.
The gates at NAIA Terminal 2.

I took a seat outside the airport's dedicated vape room. In around 20 minutes, boarding began and, as always, business class passengers were the first to be called. The experience was efficient and hassle-free.

The airport might have a ways to go before it can fully shed its negative reputation, but it's come a long way since it was crowned the worst airport in the world.
Business class in Philippine Airlines.
Business class in Philippine Airlines.

While my flight was delayed, I found the airport's immigration and security queues efficient. The business class lounge had decent amenities and great service. The lounge was quiet, and it felt like the perfect place to relax in the midst of a busy airport.

Read the original article on Business Insider
By: [email protected] (Marielle Descalsota)
Title: I flew out of what was once considered the worst airport in the world. Except for a few hiccups, it was a smooth experience.
Sourced From: www.businessinsider.com/manila-airport-naia-business-class-philippines-review-2022-6
Published Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2022 06:57:34 +0000