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Your Guide to Manila Airport

Your gateway to the Philippines, an archipelago in Southeast Asia made up of 7,100 islands is Manila Airport. The country is situated between the Philippine Sea and South China Sea. It boasts of many gorgeous beaches, quaint historical cities, unique festivals held almost year-round and a host of natural attractions.


The Philippine capital is Manila which serves as the center of business, education, entertainment and transportation. Manila Airport acts as a gateway to domestic flights travelling to other beautiful islands in the country, as well as the main hub for international destinations.


From MIA to NAIA: Manila Airport Over the Years


Now, let’s take a look at how the Manila International Airport – which is now called the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – turned out to be what it is today.

  • The original structure.

It was in 1935 that the original airport serving manila was opened to the public. Back then, it was called Manila North or Grace Park Airfield due to its location in Grace Park, the city of Caloocan. The Philippine Airlines was then called the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company and they were the first carrier to use the facilities at the airport. In 1948, the airport was moved to Nichols Field which is now known as Villamor Airbase. It was only in the mid-1950s that an international runway and taxiway was built. After a fire damaged the building in 1952, a smaller terminal was built. Today’s Manila International Airport was named such on August 1987, after the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. upon his return to the Philippines.


  • Manila Airport during the 1990s.

What is now known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA has expanded and several terminals were added over the years, under different presidencies.


  • Manila Airport from 2000 onwards. 

Today, there are four different terminals which comprise the Manila International Airport System. This consists of Terminal 1 which is now being rehabilitated; Terminal 2 which is the Centennial Terminal located at the Old MIA Road; Terminal 3 which is the newest and biggest terminal in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex; and Terminal 4 which is the Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal.

Quick Facts about Manila Airport

Whether you’re travelling to Manila for a business trip or if you’re venturing out to one of the islands for a tropical vacation, here are a few quick facts that you need to know about it:

  • Airport name: Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)
  • Number of Terminals: 4
  • Time Zone: +8:00 hours from UTC/GMT
  • FlightStats/IATA Code: MNL
  • ICAO Code: RPLL
  • Location: Paranaque City and Pasay City, Metro Manila
  • Year built: 1937 (as Manila International Air Terminal)
  • Elevation AMSL: 23 meters
  • Coordinates:  14°30′31″N 121°01′10″E 
  • Since the Philippines is made up of thousands of islands, the local carriers also have domestic flights to several local destinations. This includes Bacolod, Batanes, Busan, Busuanga, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Caticlan, Cebu, Cauayan, Cotabato, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, San Jose, Roxas City, Surigao, Tacloban, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga. 
  • Prior to being called the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the aircrafts hub was named Manila International Air Terminal. This was opened to the general flying public in July 1937 at Nielson Field. Following the independence of the Philippines, the airport was moved to its current site which is near Villamor Airbase. Several changes have been made to the airport until it was finally named the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, with four different terminals welcoming passengers of domestic and international flights.


    In the year 2010, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport became one of the world’s busiest airports by passenger traffic and one of Asia’s busiest airports in terms of passenger volume. For the past five years, the airports ranking in the category of passenger movements are as follows:

    • 2008 – 22.2 million (57th place)
    • 2009 – 24.1 million (51st place)
    • 2010 – 27.1 million (49th place)
    • 2011 – 29.5 million (46th place)
    • 2012 – 31.5 million (34th place)


    Those who aren’t familiar with the layout of the different terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport might get confused, so it helps to have some basic knowledge about it. Terminal 1 was completed in 1981 to accommodate the country’s then-growing international passenger traffic.

    Terminal 2 began its operations in 1999 and was originally envisioned as a domestic hub. However, it now serves as the home of the country’s flag carrier which is the Philippine Airlines.


    Terminal 3 is the largest airport in Manila which stands on a 65-hectare property, right next to the NAIA runway facilities. It’s able to handle 13 million passengers annually.


    Finally, there’s Terminal 4 which is also called the Manila Domestic Airport Terminal. It serves as home to local airline companies like SeaAir and Zest Air. Terminal 4 is a one-level building and is the oldest of all the terminals under the Manila International Airport system.


    More Information about Manila Airport

    Although some parts of the Manila Airport are still in the rehabilitation phase, the current government is working hard to improve the existing airport facilities. If you’re flying to the Philippines, there are many Manila hotels near airport where you can stay. To get to these Manila Airport hotels and other points of the busy metropolis, you can simply hail a Manila airport taxi.

    Your other options in getting around are hiring a car rental Manila. When getting a car hire Manila, you may want to opt for the chauffeured ones because driving around the city yourself can be quite a challenge, especially if you are not accustomed to how the city buses and jeepney drivers behave.


    All in all, the Philippines and Manila in particular is a very interesting place to visit. Once you experience the warmth of the people and the beauty of the beaches and other natural resources here, you are bound to plan a return visit even before you leave the tropical country.