Transfer in Manila

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  • Inthesandpit

    Next year I am taking the ‘war office’ otherwise known as the better half on a trip to Palawan in the Philippines for a significant birthday. I was wondering if anyone has any pointers for the domestic transfer in MNL? We arrive from DXB via HKG on CX in T3 before transferring to the domestic connection from T4. Reading some blogs it warns to allow 3hrs for the transit and to be aware of luggage being tampered with.


    Looked at FLIO and it does say 3 hours by ‘intermittent’ shuttlebus between those terminals’though maybe 1 hour of travel – its only 3 kms.
    Luggage should be safe since the President/Transport minister just sacked the handling company for breaking into luggage and a new company will be in place by then.
    Plan to go to Palawan myself later this year’though will start my trip from MNL.
    To allow for luggage collection at T3 and check in atleast one hour at T4, 3 hours is a safe bet. CX has frequent flights.


    I frequently go to Manila and have never had luggage problems. The challenge with transferring between terminals is the totally unpredictable traffic – you can easily sit for an hour or two going nowhere on a journey of a couple of miles or less. Or you will be there in 10 minutes……


    Agree with Tom, Traffic is a little better since the sky highway was finished but getting between terminals does require the 3 hours.

    Enjoy Palawan and definitely visit the underwater cave.


    It is possible that the transfer at MNL will be both fast and simple if Inthesandpit’s onward flight is booked with Cebu Pacific.
    CX uses the newer terminal 3 which is divided for both domestic and international flights and the domestic area is used as I recall exclusively by Cebu Pacific.
    We have twice taken their flight from terminal 3 to Palawan to visit friends after arriving on CX. The transfer was quick and seamless and the onward flight very pleasant. Palawan airport is small and simple but it works well enough.

    Manila airport it would be fair to say has a unpleasant seedy past but it was cleaned up a few years back. I use MNL terminal 3 very frequently and over the past 3 years since CX moved to this terminal neither I or our large family have never experienced any incident with baggage tampering or delays even though we carry a lot of luggage as we have homes in the Philippines and Hong Kong. As older blogs mention MNL airport used to have many problems with luggage tampering and immigration/customs staff aggressively demanding bribes for all sorts of fictitious problems with documents etc.

    My own and the experiences of colleagues and friends indicate that MNL after the major and ongoing clean-up started about 5 years ago MNL can be regarded as a safe, very busy yet and reasonably well run airport. Terminal 3 is in fact very pleasant with a large and excellent Cathay Pacific lounge. We have used Cebu Pacific many times to fly around the Philippines and have found them to be a decent reliable LCC. I hope that this is of assistance and am sure that Palawan will not disappoint.


    I travelled through Manila twice last November, didn’t believe the traffic stories until I experienced it!

    No experience of T3/T4, only used T1/T2, Philippine Airlines run their own shuttle between T1 & T2 which worked well for me. Departed from T1 and luckily I did allow a few hours for transfer from hotel, all the worst stories about traffic were proved correct on this journey.


    Thanks Everyone for the information – all booked now so no going back lol. Domestic flights are with Air Swift to El Nido airstrip / airport from T4, scheduled in plenty of time for the transfers looking forward to our first visit. Not experienced CX since 1990 LGW-BAH B742 and El Nido airstrip from Google earth reminds me of San petro in Belize in 1977


    I can concur, baggage not a major issue, traffic a total nightmare, and if you land when its raining “good luck”

    Never heard of Air Swift but that doesn’t mean anything, I would have agreed with cwoodward Cebu is a good airline and shares the same terminal

    Good luck and enjoy your holiday


    Don’t know Air Swift they fly very modern ATRs, guessed you go to El Nido from T4,the major airlines use other terminals, maybe write and tell us later?
    Certainly easier than going to the island’s capital and taking maybe a seven hour trip in a van to the resort.
    Palawan has a reputation as one of the best islands in the world and Filipino attitudes and near perfect English will make your trip worthwhile. Bon voyage!

    Chris in Makati

    Now that the NAIA Expressway has been completed, traffic in the area is much improved. If you take a taxi, the journey from T3 to T4 shouldn’t take more than about 15 to 20 minutes, but allow more than that just in case. There are free shuttle buses that run between the airport terminals, but you have to wait until they’re ready to depart, which might be some time.

    Google Maps

    Don’t make the mistake of letting one of the touts in the T3 arrivals area persuade you to use their service. Walk outside and turn to the right. You’ll see the loading areas for yellow metered taxis just across the road. It shouldn’t cost you more than about 150 Pesos for that trip.


    @Flightlevel Thanks for the info yes the airline is air swift, how I will keep the war office down to 20kgs baggage beggars belief though. Sure I will compose a trip report for the flights and hotel.


    In the Sandpit
    Your transfer from Terminal 3 to terminal 4 (the domestic terminal for Air Swift) is not far but you cannot use the Skyway. Depending on the time of day this journey will take some time. I personally not use the yellow taxi for three reasons.
    1. Depending on the time of day they are not always available
    2. The queues can be very long. It is the most frequent mode of transport for Filipinos
    3. As the journey is so short the driver may refuse to take you, or as discovered to my cost (in time and pesos), he drove on a most circuitous route just to make a higher fare.
    4. Not ideal for families as the boot (trunk) is small. There are very few, if any vans in the yellow taxi fleet

    I would use the coupon taxi – just to the left of the exit.
    1. Controlled by a single company with salaried drivers.
    2. All drivers speak English
    3. Fixed price (pesos 140.00)
    4. Always available except for times of heavy rainfall
    5. Will never you down for the short journey
    6. Many of the taxis are vans or SPV. Toyota Innova and Avenza, plenty of room for family luggage.
    7. You can call them to pick you up on your return and transfer you to your departure terminal

    One final comment – on the booking form, it states and I quote
    “Each adult passenger has a free 20 and 20 kgs check-in baggage allowance and 7 kgs hand carry”.
    This is not a total of 40kgs per person. It is only 20kgs per person. on my only Air Swift flight, the check in was very strict and I had to pay penalties for both checked and carry-on bags. The plane is small so understandable.

    However they have a good reputation for good timekeeping in good weather, and like most airlines the opposite is true in bad weather. EL-NIDO is fantastic, may I ask where you are staying?

    Enjoy your holiday and Happy Birthday


    @Chris in Makati – thanks for all the info, very useful looking forward to the experience


    In the Sandpit.
    I forgot, do not buy your pesos before you get to Manila. Take US$ cash you will get very close to the daily bank rate. The banks in Terminal 3 as you leave immigration are very good.
    I would not recommend using your debit or credit cards in an ATM machine as this will be a much different rate and you will be be charged by your bank for all sorts of fees etc.


    In the sandpit.
    Airport and terminal map here.

    Terminal Three to Four is not a straightforward as we would like

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