If you are planning a trip to the Philippines, chances are you may have read reviews about the country's main international airport. Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has received a bad rap over the many years, some calling it among the worst airports in the world. From delays to congestion in terminals, visitors and Filipinos alike have stories of bad experiences at the Philippines' largest airport. While the discussions and work toward building a new airport for the city are ongoing, the travelling public may have to wait a while longer. However, the Philippine government and cities have opened up their airports as alternatives to enter the country.
While movement towards improving NAIA seems to be dragging on, new airports in the provinces have emerged to the Philippine government's credit. Some of the new airports offer alternatives to travellers wanting to visit the country. This is a guide of cities to help you find ways to travel to the Philippines - without flying through Manila.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the second busiest airport in the Philippines, and a major domestic and international hub in the Central Visayas region for Philippine Airlines, Philippines Air Asia, and Cebu Pacific. Passengers can connect to a long list of domestic destinations which is comparable to the route network out of Manila. It currently serves international flights from major international hubs in Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul. In addition, there are also flights to Dubai and Doha operated by Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Clark International Airport is a former US Air Force base located 50 miles north of Manila. It is the closest current alternate airport to Manila, where Air Asia announced it would base its Philippine operations. International destinations include Singapore, Dubai, Doha, Hong Kong, and Seoul. The airport also recently received its first flights from China with China Eastern's Clark-Shanghai service. While it has a broad range of domestic destinations, the routes are limited so domestic connections may be a bit problematic.
Davao's airport is the third busiest in the Philippines and serves handful of domestic destinations. Both Cebu Pacific and Silk Air operate flights to Singapore, currently the only international destination. However, starting December 2017 Air Asia will launch new flights from the city to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Completed in 2007, the new Iloilo Airport serves as a hub for Cebu Pacific. The airline operates flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from the largest city in the Western Visayas. Guests can arrive at the airport to take a four-six hour bus ride to Caticlan/Boracay. However, travellers can access the resort island through either Caticlan's newly revamped airport or Kalibo.
Across the Iloilo Strait is Bacolod. While it is not designated as an international airport, it has served charter flights to/from Seoul, South Korea. That route is currently served by Philippine Airlines on a seasonal basis.
Tagbilaran is the capital of Bohol, where tourists are treated to various attractions such as the Chocolate Hills to the famed tarsiers. A new international airport on Panglao island is currently under construction and expected to open in early 2018. Philippine Airlines operates flights to Seoul, South Korea. Local officials expect more flights to come after the new airport opens.
Kalibo airport benefits from its distance to Boracay, as it is the closest international airport to the resort island. The airport serves a broad range of Asian hubs such as Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur. Upon arriving, passengers can take a two hour bus ride to the Caticlan boat jetty on their way to the shores of Boracay.
A new passenger terminal at Palawan's primary airport was opened recently to meet the growing number of tourists from within the Philippines and from abroad to visit the natural wonders found on the island. International services are still relatively new here, though with the new terminal and the press coverage Palawan's attractions get it may grow over the next few years. For now, Philippine Airlines operates the only international route from Palawan - to Taipei, Taiwan.
Located in the northern province of Ilocos Norte in Luzon, Laoag is a designated international airport with regular chartered flights to China. China Eastern Airlines operates a flight to Guangzhou, China. Philippine Airlines operates the only domestic flights to the city from Manila.