I was initially reluctant to take my flights from Clark International Airport, renamed to a corrupt-sounding Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) by a bottom-scraping iron-fist! I’ve spent sleepless nights debating with myself if I should give it a go.
For one, I was resistant to the idea of traveling all the way to Angeles City, Pampanga – a hefty 85 kilometers from Manila – just to ride my plane. But Philtranco has made it a little less painful by placing a shuttle station in 2 locations: Pasay and SM Megamall (Mandaluyong City)! Still, prepping up for a trip will entail a minimum of 3 additional hours from humanity’s short lifespan!
DOING THE MATH!
Let’s say, if you have to be at the airport (the advised) 3 hours prior to departure, add 3 more hours (to wait for the bus then take the ride to Clark Field) – that is a backbreaking 6 hour wait already! Add 3 ½ hours more for the travel duration, then you would have lost 9 ½ hours just to get to, say KL, or Jakarta, or BKK!
9 ½ hours of transit will already take a toll on your physical stamina, as well as the physiologic limits of human verve and vitality! The minute you step down the tarmac, you are one pruned out, energy-ravaged individual! What a way to start a journey, indeed!
But you shall take Air Asia, instead of Cebu Pacific. That, in itself, is a little joy to behold!
I first did this leg of travel last November 2009 (9 months ago) for my India/Nepal journeys. I have since stepped on Clark Field 6 times! And there are obvious physical changes!
THROUGH THE MOTIONS
The bus ride takes roughly 2 hours. It will drive you near the airport entrance where you will be asked to show your ticket and passport. Luggage is passed through x-ray, while you are frisked. Once you’ve claimed your luggage, you see right in front of you a maze-like path that leads to the check-in counter.
Clark Field is a small sized, low-cost terminal; a down-graded version of Malaysia's LCCT. But make no mistake, this isn't Taney County's M. Graham Clark Field Airport in Missouri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clark_Taney_Co_Airport_6-1-09_by_KTrimble.jpg).
Remember Manila’s Domestic Airport back in the 90’s? You get the picture.
CHECKING-IN 101 FOR DUMMIES!
Proceed to the Travel Tax counter first (P1,620 for economy tickets). Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) pay much less, of course. This counter is located to your left, upon entry. Once paid, proceed to your check-in counter. Give your passport and ticket, and deposit your check-in baggage! Secure your passport, ticket and your boarding pass with corresponding claim stubs for your checked luggage! Then proceed to the Immigration Area where you are to pay PhP600 (It was P550 in November and March. By July, it was hiked to P600. In NAIA, they charge a fixed rate of PhP750). Get an Immigration Card (Embarkation Card), and fill it up! Then join the queue at the Immigration Counter where you shall be officially stamped out! Pass through a 2nd X-ray scan and a 2nd frisking, then you’re already at the Pre-Departure Area!
If you haven’t had your meal, there are several shops where cheap meals could be had. There’s even a sit-down restaurant at the extreme end! Fill your stomach with something. Allow it to settle down, then use the john (whether you feel like using the toilet or not) before your expected boarding.
Clark Field’s pre-departure area is spacious, with red seats running parallel from each other. The view to the airport runway used to be visible, but since the renovation, they have closed the view with a concrete wall and a stair that leads to nowhere. Instead of just stepping directly up front, you now need to make your way through the side and head down a stair.
It is funny how renovations have turned boarding into a more complicated procedure. They’ve dismantled the pair of sheds that used to welcome transits! You see, some renovations are ridiculously planned not for the convenience of the travelers, but for the commission of the contractors! As I said, even the new name reeks of a foul stench!
Clark International Airport (aka Disodado Macapagal International Airport) is located on an area of the economic zone formerly utilized as the Clark Air Base, which was closed in late 1991 by the U.S. Air Forces after the explosion of Mount Pinatubo. This was carried out through the unanimous decision of the Philippine Parliament not to renew lease of the air base to the U.S. government. It was unfortunately rechristened to its new name in 1993 in memory of a former president. In 2007, a Korean consortium began a $2 million study plan that would eventually expand Clark Field into a $1.7 billion refurbishment. And you wonder whose pockets get the bulk of the lot, since this early, I don’t see an inkling of even ¼ of this amount. Unless you consider the new baggage conveyors at the arrival area as something worth all that! LOL
These alleged developments will transition DMIA into the eventual premier airport in the country, which is really a bad idea because it is just too far (85 km) from Metro Manila! Whoever thought of this had Economics-fueled brains the size of a pea!
The passenger movement of DMIA has exponentially increased from 7,880 passengers in 2003 to over 600,000 in 2009! Various carriers are starting to make use of Clark Field for their operations which include the following: Air Asia (KL and Kota Kinabalu), Cebu Pacific (Bangkok, Cebu, HK, Macau, Singapore), SEA Air (Boracay via Caticlan), Asiana Airlines (Incheon and Seoul), Tiger Airways (Singapore), Spirit of Manila (Taipei & Taoyuan), Kang Pacific (Fujairah – an easternmost Emirate country), Pacific Flier (Koror, Palau), as well as several cargo planes!
P.S. Laptops are to be hand-carried. Malaysian airports don't allow laptops checked in as part of your baggage!
Part 2 on Shops inside the Pre-Departure Hall, Images at Clark and Philtranco Bus Service schedule: http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/08/clark-international-airport-angeles_05.html
This is the Eye in the Sky!
From the entrance, you have to go through an X-ray Check and frisking for security check. The Travel Tax counter for Filipino travelers is that white counter at the right corner of the photo.
Queue for your Check-in once you have paid your travel tax (PhP1,620). Business class ticket holders pay almost PhP3,000. The encircled one is an American who kept jumping off lines and no one called his attention! He was supposed to stand behind me, now look where he is! And yes, he smelled of alcohol! We came from the same bus! Some Americans can be so shameless!
Pay your airport tax at this counter (PhP600) then fill out the Immigration/Embarkation Card before proceeding to the Immigration Counter inside to be stamped out!
From last November 2009, you leave the pre-departure area through the front door, directly facing your plane. This shed has since been removed, and the exit has been redirected at the side of the hall as of July 2010.