Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Manila • going off-airport to shop ….

Manila Airport Duty FreeThe best shopping at the Philippines hub used to be beside it, not in it.The newly renovated duty free stores in Terminal 1 departures and Terminal 2 arrivals have, to a degree, levelled the playing field.Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila is the main international gateway to the Philippines and is just 7km south of the capital. Passenger growth in recent years • especially from large movements of migrant workers • has pushed up traffic to 29.5 million passengers for 2011, ranking it into the top 50 of the world’s busiest airports by passenger traffic.

The need for extra terminal capacity resulted in Terminal 3 eventually being opened in July 2008, but due to legal wrangles delayed its intended purpose as an international terminal except for home carriers such as Airphil Express, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, plus All Nippon Airways.

For the time being, international flights remain in Terminal 1 which is operating at above its capacity and therefore can’t offer the passenger experience seen at close by Asian rivals such as Singapore Changi or Hong Kong International. In shopping terms, the airport’s retail operator, Duty Free Philippines, is in a bit of a limbo as refurbishments in T3 are on hold until DFP can be certain that they will be worthwhile ie until big international carrier take up residence.

In the meantime most international travellers are going to have to settle for the shops in the 16-gate T1 which mainly target mid-priced shoppers. For example in the beauty areas which are, by far, the biggest, brands like L’Oréal, MCM,The Body Shop and Revlon all have strong positions. And in fashion and accessories names like Kipling, and Bijoux Terner’s ‘Luxury at $12’ concept, also have high profiles attesting to demand at the low and mid-range. Just like Middle East hubs such as Dubai, confectionery is also a prominent category, an indicator of the throughput of migrant workers and of the general Filipino tendency to buy sweets and chocolates to give as gifts. There are luxury brands too, mostly incorporated in the main DFP duty free stores in the terminal.Otherwise the shopping offer has a focus on souvenirs and gifts with more than a dozen concessions devoted to local artefacts. Choose from two Marisan Handicraft stores, Preclaro’s or Macareve for a wide range of souvenirs or stop in at Vanafi or Vivid Lilac for a Filipino take on jewellery.To take the stress out of the departure process, which at NAIA can be one of the most demanding, there is a massage centre in the west concourse run by SM Kenko Sauna Corp where a bit of unwinding could be just the ticket before a long flight. There is also arrivals shopping in T1 in case you want to pick up duty-free products on entry to Manila.

However, if you really want to splash out, there is the DFP-operated Fiesta Mall which is an extremely large shopping centre situated close to the airport where regular travellers and foreign tourists can shop within 48 hours of their arrival while overseas Filipino workers are allowed 15 days to shop there duty-free.

The mall is vast just like a big department store and allows the purchasing of a huge range of items. But, as you might have guessed, it is really geared to resident Filipinos who have been away, and to overseas workers. Things like microwave ovens and TVs are available, and you can also find high-end watches from the likes of Hermès, Omega and Tag Heuer • plus everything in between. At the same time there are always great promotions from brands like Mars, M&Ms and Hershey’s on confectionery, plus all the top liquor brands including Chivas, Courvoisier, Johnnie Walker, Otard and Patrón.The limits for shopping here are very generous: regular Filipinos and foreign tourists can spend up to $1,000 while overseas workers can shop for up to $2,500 worth of goods (with certain restrictions). Bear in mind that you can only buy two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes and two bottles of wine but there are no limits on most other categories like fashion and accessories. But do compare downtown prices if you are planning on shopping at the Fiesta Mall as pricing has become very competitive and, in electronics for example, you may get a better deal in downtown Manila.Check our allowances guide: Philippines Duty Free Allowances

Fact file

  • Passenger traffic 2010: 24 million
  • Airlines: Around 35, of which the biggest (by number of routes) are Cenu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Airphil Express, Zest Airways, South East Asian Airlines.
  • Worth knowing: Today NAIA is the main gateway to the Philippines but Diosdado Macapagal International Airport situated on a former military base that is now the Clark Freeport Zone is meant to eventually replace NAIA in this important function.