How Early to Arrive at Manila Ninoy Airport (Domestic & International Flights)

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Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is one of the busiest airports in Southeast Asia, serving 45 million passengers per year.

The airport has numerous flights departing daily to various destinations, both within the Philippines and internationally. To accommodate this high volume of flights Ninoy Aquino International Airport has four terminals; Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and Terminal 4.

Given the size of the airport and the sheer volume of passengers, we recommend arriving at Manila’s Ninoy Airport (NAIA) between 2 and 3 hours before a domestic flight, and 3 to 4 hours before an international flight.

However, you’ll also want to consider personal circumstances that may influence you to arrive at the airport even earlier. These include; travelling with young children, how you get to the airport, what time you’re flying etc.

What Time Should You Arrive at Manila Airport?

We typically recommend arriving at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport between two to three hours before departure for domestic flights and three to four hours before departure for international flights.

This should provide you with enough time to:

  • Arrive at the airport
  • Check-in for your flight
  • Drop your bags
  • Go through security
  • Make it to your gate – prior to / in time for boarding

In our opinion, it’s always better to arrive at the airport a little early and have some extra time browsing the stores or grabbing a bite to eat rather than arriving late, feeling rushed and running the risk of missing your flight.

Why Do You Need Longer For International Flights?

It’s often recommended that when travelling to international destinations, you arrive at NAIA between three and four hours before the flight departs. This is to allow for extra time for checking visas, entry requirements, immigration control, and clearing customs.

Some of these aspects will apply to all international passengers, while others are specific to certain nationalities.

Long-haul international flights can also often use larger aircraft with more passengers which can have a longer boarding period to ensure all passengers board the plane in time for the scheduled departure.

How Are You Getting To Manila Airport?

One significant consideration when deciding how early to arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport is your mode of transport. The city of Manila is well known for its traffic congestion, which can be particularly challenging during peak hours.

We recommend using apps like Waze or Google Maps in advance to gauge the distance and predicted travel time to the airport based on your mode of transport.

If checking these apps on a relaxed Sunday afternoon, the travel time might differ significantly compared to a busy Monday morning.

Rideshare services like Grab are prevalent in Manila and offer a convenient way to reach the airport. However, it’s essential to factor in potential wait times for a driver, especially during rush hours.

For example, while the distance between Manila Airport and Makati is just 6km, the journey in a taxi can take upwards of 30 minutes, even when travelling early morning or late at night.

The Time Of Year

The season can significantly affect how busy NAIA is, which in turn can influence the time required for parking, check-in, baggage drop, and security checks.

Peak times like Christmas, New Year, Holy Week, and other Philippine holidays often see an uptick in travellers. If you’re flying during these periods, consider arriving an hour earlier than usual.

Checking In For Your Flight

Most airlines offer the option of checking in via their website or mobile apps 24 hours before departure. This digital method provides a boarding pass and can streamline the process once at NAIA.

However, if you can’t check in ahead of time, then you’ll want to ensure you arrive at the airport with ample time to complete this in person at a check-in desk.

Most airlines at NAIA offer self-service kiosks and check-in counters. However, these desks will close before the flight departure (times vary by airline), so ensure you’re checked in well before this deadline.

Dropping Checked Bags

Much like checking in for your flight, another factor you’ll want to consider when determining what time you should arrive at Manila Airport is whether or not you’ll need to check your luggage.

The bag drop will close roughly one hour before the flight’s departure (exact times vary depending on the airline and destination so be sure to check your flight information) so you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the airport early enough to accommodate this where applicable.

If you do not have any checked bags and are subsequently travelling hand luggage only then once you have your boarding pass (either digital from checking in online or physical from checking in at the airport) you’ll be able to head straight through to security.

Which Manila Airport Terminal Do You Need?

Manila Airport has four terminals. Airlines may adjust their designated terminals, so always check your ticket or the airport’s website for the most up-to-date information.

Terminal 1

  • Air China
  • Air Niugini
  • Asiana Airlines
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Eva Air
  • Gulf Air
  • Japan Airlines
  • Jeju Air
  • JetStar Asia Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Oman Air
  • Royal Brunei Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Xiamen Airlines
  • Jet Star Japan
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • STARLUX Airlines
  • Scoot
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Royal Air

Terminal 2 (Centennial Terminal)

  • Philippine Airlines
  • PAL Express

Terminal 3

  • Air Asia
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Etihad Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Cebu Pacific Air
  • Delta Air
  • Emirates Airline
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Panpacific Airlines
  • CebGO

Terminal 4

  • Air Asia
  • Cebu Pacific
  • Skyjet
  • Air Swift

Certain airlines operate in multiple terminals at Manila International Airport. In this case, the terminal you’re travelling from can also be found on your booking confirmation, boarding pass and on the airline’s website.

Shuttle services connect the terminals at Manila Ninoy Airport, allowing passengers to move between them quickly and easily.


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