The Big Trip: Day Zero

My three-week adventure begins with a trip to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. I’ve heard positive things about it, mainly that it’s much, much nicer and more presentable to foreign visitors than the current international terminal. I didn’t have such a great impression of the old terminal, so I was hoping this was true.

Terminal 3 was HUGE, and in a way, it reminded me of the Hong Kong International Airport, at least as far as space was concerned. There were a lot of check-in terminals, and each terminal had adequate space to handle heavy traffic without it snaking around uncomfortably. Terminal 3 was currently being used as sort of a low-cost terminal, housing such airlines as Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, and PAL Express. Lugging around my one backpack (as well as my usual daypack), I headed for the Cebu Pacific area to check-in. The check-in process was relatively smooth, and I was successfully able to hand-carry my one backpack.

one backpack

Unfortunately, I completely forgot that I still had to pay a PHP 1,620 travel tax. I also did not know that there was also a PHP 750 airport user’s charge. So, before I could get my boarding pass, I had to go to the other end of the terminal in order to pay for both. There were few signs to show me where exactly this was to be done, so I was momentarily confused, but the staff was helpful enough to point me in the right direction. After paying for the fees, I headed back to the check-in counter to claim my boarding pass.

My flight to Ho Chi Minh City was scheduled for 11:00pm, and boarding time was at 10:30pm. I was done with my check-in by approximately 9:00pm. With roughly an hour and a half until boarding time, I decided to check out the other facilities the airport terminal had to offer.

Being a new facility, there weren’t a lot of stores that were open yet. However, there was a Mini-Stop (a local convenience store chain, similar to 7-11 and Circle K) that was open. A few food stalls and restaurants such as Dimsum and Dumplings were open as well. I didn’t get the chance to compare prices, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the stuff they sold was more expensive than their non-airport counterparts. After a few minutes of snapping some pictures and trying to get some shut-eye, I decided to go to the boarding area.

departures

I went through airport security, and this is where things got annoying. I was stopped for carrying three four-packs of AA batteries, which were spares for my camera. I didn’t have trouble when I brought batteries Hong Kong on a PAL flight the previous year (that time, I had two four-packs), so this surprised me. I was told that I wasn’t to bring them along as carry-on, and that I had to put them in my check-in luggage. I told them as calmly as possible that I didn’t have check-in luggage, and that I was allowed to bring the exact same kind of batteries as carry-on luggage just one year ago. They wouldn’t budge, and said that they would have to confiscate the batteries. At this point, I started to feel very annoyed. Apart from that, I got the very distinct feeling that all they wanted was some sort of bribe in order for me to take the batteries with me. There was this… vibe. I would expect that if it truly were against safety regulations, they would have simply taken the batteries, explained why, then let me go. Instead, there was this “What do you wanna do about it?” vibe I got from them, as if they were waiting to see what I’d do in order to board the plane with my batteries. Well, I didn’t have the money or the patience to appease them with a bribe, so I basically told them that if it really were against safety regulations, then they can keep the damned batteries. I tried to explain one more time that I was able to board a plane with the same set of batteries once, but knowing this wouldn’t really have any sort of effect on them, I left and headed for my boarding gate.

Now, I’m trying to do some research on whether or not batteries really are restricted as hand-carry items. I checked the FAA regulations (the American regulations), and I found this <http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ash/ash_programs/hazmat/aircarrier_info/media/airline_passengers_and_batteries.pdf>, which pretty much says that I CAN hand-carry those batteries, and that there wasn’t any limit to the number I could hand-carry. Even the Cebu Pacific website doesn’t say anything about batteries being prohibited. (The NAIA website has zero information regarding airline security.) Now I’m more convinced than ever that airport security was just angling for a bribe. No wonder the Philippines is suffering as far as tourism is concerned; as early as the airport, people are subjected to such behavior.

I passed through immigration with no hassle, though I was miffed that they stamped my passport in the most haphazard way. (Later on, it pleased me to see that other countries made sure that stamping the passport was done in a clear, organized way.) I still had plenty of time before boarding, so I tried taking a nap at the airport.

Soon, it was time to board, and my adventure was about to begin…