Hello from the Philippines!
I get very excited every time I land in a new country. Once deplaned, I headed to the immigration hall. Luckily, there is an ASEAN lane, and no one in line. I made it through passport control in less than 10 seconds.
In this series:
- Alaska Airlines Economy Class A320 Washington to Los Angeles
- Crowne Plaza Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Qantas First Lounge at Los Angeles International (LAX)
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge at Los Angeles International (LAX)
- American Airlines Business Class 787-9 Los Angeles to Shanghai
- Cathay Pacific Lounge at Shanghai Pudong (PVG)
- Cathay Dragon Economy Class A321 Shanghai to Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific The Wing First Class Lounge at Hong Kong International (HKG)
- Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge at Hong Kong International (HKG)
- Cathay Pacific Economy Class 777-300 Hong Kong to Manila
- Cebu Pacific Economy Class ATR72 Manila to Busuanga (Round-Trip)
- Al Faro Cosmio Hotel Coron
- Island Adventure: Coron, Palawan
- Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Manila to Istanbul
- Touristanbul – Free Istanbul City Tour Sponsored by Turkish Airlines
- Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Istanbul to Los Angeles
As I mentioned earlier, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 3 looks just like a typical shopping mall in Asia. Since my island hopper flight departs from the Domestic Terminal 4, I would have to transfer. There are three options. First, you can take an airport loop, which is a public shuttle bus that runs between terminals, and it costs 20 PHP per person. Second, call a cab or Grab. If you have a data plan, you can call Grab on your smartphone, just like calling Uber. Otherwise, there is a Grab kiosk outside the terminal that can assist you. Third, a free shuttle provided by the airport if you have a confirmed onward ticket.
In my case, I took the free shuttle. Once you clear custom, turn left and left again. Follow the sign Terminal Transfer. Walk until the end of the hallway, and you’ll see a transfer desk. Present your passport and itinerary, and the agent will issue you a boarding pass. Before boarding the shuttle bus, you will need to clear a security checkpoint.
The bus will then drop you off outside Domestic Terminal 4. To enter the terminal building, you will need to have your bags screened and walk through a metal detector.
If you plan to check your bags, you can drop them off at the check-in counter.
To enter the sterile area (airside), you will have to clear another security checkpoint. Interestingly, there are separate lanes for male and female passengers. Unfortunately, the male lane was a lot longer than the female one.
The departure area was very crowded, and I couldn’t even find a seat. There is no free wifi there, but there are plenty of kiosks that sell food and snack.
Since I had about 2 hours to spare, I decided to get some pork adobo for lunch. It was yummy. Though I wish it had less fat and more meat. I also noticed that there wasn’t a table to place your food. But from what I saw, people were eating their food on top of a trash can. Alrighty.
Flight Number: DG6051
Route: Manila (MNL) – Busuanga (USU)
Schedule: 13:05 – 14:30
Duration: 1h 25m
Aircraft Type: ATR-72
Cabin: Economy Class
Date: November 23, 2019
Around 1:30 PM, boarding commenced through gate 5, next to a Virgin Mary. Since ATR-72 can’t accommodate a full-size carry-on in the overhead bin, passengers with a carry-on had to gate-check their bags. Domestic terminal 4 doesn’t have jetbridges, so we had to bus it to the remote stand, and boarded through the rear door of the aircraft.
ATR-72 has a 2-2 all-economy configuration, which is comparable to the CRJs and some larger ERJs, but it felt so much cramped in there.
The seats are not well padded, and the legroom is limited.
Surprisingly, there was a snack menu on this short island hopper flight. But I wasn’t sure if they carried the food items like bread and cheese on board, or you had to pre-order them.
One thing to note, before they closed the door, the cabin was very hot and humid. There was even a pre-recorded announcement telling passengers that the A/C won’t be on until they start the aircraft engine.
The taxi was quick, and we were airborne in no time. Overall, it was an uneventful flight. There was also a mid-flight trivia hosted by the cabin crews. I thought that was sort of cute, but I didn’t participate because I was nodding in my seat. Expectedly, I find the cabin crews are courteous and friendly, which is the norm for Asian carriers.
About 20 minutes before landing, the captain announced that we started the initial descent into Busuanga. As you can see, the view was magnificent.
We arrived at Francisco B. Reyes Airport (USU) in Coron, Palawan, and parked at a remote stand. There is only one baggage claim area, and it didn’t take long at all to get my bag.
I then exited the terminal to meet the driver the hotel had arranged for me. I would highly recommend you pre-book your ground transportation beforehand. Most hotels can arrange logistics for you, and it’s hassle-free. Coron is not Hawaii or Bali, where you can just call a cab or take a bus. There is no ride-sharing service on this island.
There are two only options: arrange a private transfer, or take the minivan to Coron City and then transfer to a local Q-Van to your hotel. I believe it would cost you around 300 PHP in total if you decide to take public transportation. In my case, I paid 1500 PHP from the airport to the hotel, and 1000 PHP from the hotel back to the airport, which includes a boat ride — totally worth it.
Fast forward, my hotel arranged the airport shuttle service for me. It cost 1000 PHP, which was 500 PHP cheaper than in the opposite direction. The driver dropped me off at the departure entrance of Francisco B. Reyes Airport (USU). It’s a small busy airport that looks dated and needs an overhaul.
There was a small issue when I checked-in. It turned out my carry-on was a little bit over the limit — the allowance was 7 kg for a cabin bag. But that was an easy problem to solve. All I did was took the amenity kit out of my carry-on and put it into my backpack. Once the boarding pass was issued, I cleared the security checkpoint and made it to the departure hall.
Flight Number: DG6044
Route: Busuanga (USU) – Manila (MNL)
Schedule: 12:50 – 14:15
Duration: 1h 25m
Aircraft Type: ATR-72
Cabin: Economy Class
Date: November 25, 2019
Boarding started right on-time, and similarly, I had to gate-check my carry-on. We walked on the tarmac and boarded the plane. It took a while for the door to close, and at this point, the cabin got very hot and steamy. Once airborne, the cabin started to cool off, and I fell asleep. Other than that, it was an uneventful flight.
I intentionally booked an early flight back to avoid the possibility of a delay or even a cancelation since I had to catch my Turkish Airlines flights that evening. So I planned to transfer back to the international terminal, store my luggage, and check out the city.
Upon arrival, I found that the free shuttle service departed every 30 minutes or so, and I didn’t want to wait. Instead, I opted to take the airport loop, which cost me 20 PHP.
The process was relatively easy, though a bit chaotic. I waited for the bus across the terminal entrance. Each bus only goes to one specific terminal, so you need to pay attention to the announcement made by the bus driver when he arrives. Once the bus arrived, I had my carry-on stored in the luggage compartment under the bus. The driver then collected the cash payment onboard and drove us to International Terminal 3.
I’d say the transfer process between terminals at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was easy enough. Most people in the Philippines speak English, not that it matters to me, but it helps speed things up. In my case, I tried two different options: free shuttle service provided by the airport and the public airport loop bus.
If you opt for a ride-sharing option to get around, that is very easy too. You just need to download the Grab app, sign up for an account, and enter your credit card information for cashless transactions, but paying in cash is also an option.
My Cebu Pacific island hopper flights were fine, but nothing special. The cabin was tight and uncomfortable, but it was perfectly fine for a short hop. My biggest concern was the possibility of a delay or a cancelation, as these tend to occur on regional flights. But fortunately, it wasn’t the case.