Manila to Cebu Airport: The Pandemic Flight Experience

Traveling during this pandemic has definitely changed. I'm not a frequent flyer but going places via plane in the midst of this worldwide phenomenon is quite an experience.

Summer of this year I was able to go to Cebu City on an airplane. I didn't go the sea route because I felt it would be easier and faster if I went by air. I wasn't going there purely for leisure so flying was a more practical choice.

By the way, to those unfamiliar with the Philippines, let me give you a bit of background. Our country is divided into three major island parts: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. I traveled from Manila City within the National Capital Region in Luzon (biggest island / mainland) to Cebu City of Cebu Island in the Visayas group of islands (middle part of the country).

Visayas islands highlighted in red. Image by JL 09 via Wikimedia Commons.

If you want to see an illustration of the distance I traveled, here you go.

Original image from

ā™¦ Things to do Before Departure and Other Pre-flight Thoughts

I booked my flight with return trip almost 2 weeks before my May 1 departure date. Since I am not used to flying I thought whatever time you chose and booked would never change. Well I was wrong. šŸ˜‚ This was not my first time to book any airplane seat but it felt like it since I used a travel app to save money.

Little did I know that I would experience cancellations and rescheduling. šŸ˜‚ The airline changed my flight schedule twice but I was okay with it because the indicated time was still in the afternoon.


Meanwhile I also had to check the travel requirements during that time. We still have a pandemic in our midst but it was a good thing the quarantine restrictions wasn't that strict/bad then.

Before the trip, I had to contact several people through the official Facebook pages and checked various travel websites. This is so I'm sure I had all the necessary stuff to bring. Eventually I was able to secure all the required documents so I could enter Cebu City:

  • Official Negative result of RT-PCR test, valid for 72 hrs.
  • Airline documents like ticket info/ travel itinerary.
  • Hostel/accommodation documents.
  • TRAZE Personal QR code
  • Government IDs

Once I had everything printed out and some photocopied (except # 4) I was ready to go on this year's first out of town travel. It was an official business trip for me that's why I had the guts to ride a plane even if there's a pandemic in our midst. Yes I know it's better to avoid going anywhere away from home but hey I felt like I need a career change or else... šŸ˜… (I'll write a separate article for that.)

ā™¦ The Pre-flight Experience

A few days before my flight I got an email informing me of the third schedule change. From an afternoon flight it suddenly became a morning one. My goodness. šŸ¤¦ā€ā™€ļø Had to email them back to ask for an afternoon trip.

The travel app agency called me to inform me the only available flights left was in the morning or at night. Ugh I definitely didn't want to arrive in the evening at a place I've never been to. No choice but to choose the past 8 am flight instead.

I prefer avoiding any possible rush hour traffic, even if it was a Saturday. That meant I had to wake up way earlier than I'm used to just to go to the airport.

A day or two before my departure I used the online check-in feature. This is how I found out which airport terminal to go to. Cool huh? No need to fall in line to check-in before flying! šŸ’•

Also there is an option to select a window seat but I found out it's NOT free. How sad huh? That's why I sat at the aisle and didn't get to see most of the view up in the air.

I think it's better to check-in offline (at the airline counter) if we prefer the window seat. That's what a former officemate also told me when I got back to Manila. It's only good if there's still one available once you check-in. šŸ˜†

Anyway on the day of the departure, as early as 5 am I was already at the airport. Good job self! šŸ˜‚ I'm not a morning person but there I was excited to leave the National Capital Region (NCR a.k.a. Metro Manila) for the first time this year.

There was a line outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 but it didn't take long to get inside. (Of course we practiced social distancing even without guards telling us to do it.) This is where I would depart according to my online check-in info.


Actually there are also TRAZE QR codes all over the terminal. It was all over the outer side of the walls and very visible to all while people waited in line. I just didn't take pictures of it. šŸ˜† People can easily scan any of the copies of the travel QR code for contact tracing before leaving Manila City.

We were all wearing face masks and face shields as well. No one is allowed inside if those two are not worn.

Once I got in I wasn't able to take pictures immediately. I rarely ride airplanes so I felt like a newbie in there. šŸ˜‚ No I have no fear of flying but I just prefer traveling on the road or by sea. For me, planes are more convenient for business trips. šŸ˜Š

When I got past the security and temperature check I then put my bags on a big dark tray so I could put that on the moving part of the scanning machine. Afterwards I was directed to a counter where I showed my ID and documents. And then I went through a body scan or I think it was some kind of temperature check. šŸ¤” My bags were scanned again and I was told to throw out the water in my tumbler. Ugh. šŸ˜‚ I stupidly threw it into the provided bin instead of drinking it. Ah such a waste... šŸ˜…

I did read about the things not allowed to bring to the airport before going there. The colognes I brought were almost empty so that passed. Too bad I forgot and filled up my tumbler before I left home. šŸ˜‚

Once past the body scan I saw this sign and more.

image.png image.png

Wow, NAIA looks bright, spacious and clean. Didn't see a lot of people there thanks to the pandemic. šŸ˜… Or perhaps it was still quite early at the time. šŸ˜†

I also saw a departure screen of a certain airline before even getting inside the departure area. I didn't really look at the details because it was a different company but I can tell you more about that during my flight back to Manila. (You can read more on it in my next article. Haha.)


Based on the signages and from asking an airport personnel I was eventually able to find where to go.

Escalator going down to the gates.


Since I was early it was almost empty but I didn't try to sleep at all. Everyone was awake so why should I close my eyes even if I was sleepy? šŸ˜… Oh hey look, airplanes! šŸ˜†


There are also various fast food stalls and restaurants inside for anyone who might be hungry. Actually there are plenty of things to see that can help pass the time. I already ate an early breakfast then so I just took pictures and posted stuff in my social media accounts. Hello FREE WiFi! šŸ’•šŸ˜„

The seats have indicators for social distancing implementation.

So I just waited for a few hours in there. No I did not sleep even if it was kinda quiet. By the time it was past 7 am I think more people started arriving.
When boarding was announced, as you can see in the picture below, there were already a lot of people around. It was then one of the airline personnel gave us a health declaration form to fill up. As we exited the waiting area, each person had to give back the filled in document.

People started falling in line, with social distancing in mind.

Priority people like senior citizens were asked to fall in line first.

For those who have not flown before, the planes aren't always parked near the gates. Once we got out of the doors we didn't see the plane outside. A shuttle bus was there to take all the passengers to the airplane. We were directed to one of the waiting buses. Apparently there were more than one for everyone because of course it's required that we do social distancing inside it too.

Inside the shuttle and the view outside of it.

From the collage above we can see more parked planes! Haha. Not sure if airplanes are "parked" but there are plenty of those in various areas from different airlines. Ah long time no see NAIA!

When we got to our designated plane I didn't take a photo of it anymore. šŸ˜… Just boarded it and voila! Hello Cebu Pacific plane! Long time no see as well! šŸ˜†


My assigned seat was near the emergency exit. Nice huh?


I'm happy to say there was a one seat apart system for all passengers. It's not the usual thing like before. This made me glad they are taking precautions against the Corona virus. There's the usual "fog" inside the plane too. It actually feels fresh and clean inside.


Aside from that I took out the back seat preflight instructions in front of me and read it. Several minutes later the stewardesses also instructed everyone on what to do in case of emergency.

ā™¦ Up, Up and Away to Cebu City!

Once the plane was flying I think that was when I received the travel app notification that the plane has finally left Manila City. While enroute to Cebu I would get a glimpse of the clouds and such and nothing more. Sucks to be on the aisle seat. Haha.

There wasn't anything different then as compared to when I last flew several years ago. I like it better now because nobody is sitting close to each other. Haha. It doesn't feel crowded at all.

Let's not forget, there's also a restroom for everyone. Didn't use it though. Not sure about its sanitation because I didn't look to see if anyone was disinfecting it after every use. Nobody was on standyby outside the cubicle so a handy alcohol spray or a small bottle is really important these days.

Finally I went ahead and slept for a bit. Next thing I knew we were already near the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). Again I got an alert on my phone.


Normally I don't use travel apps. For sure I wouldn't receive any notification if I booked a flight directly from the airline website. Definitely not something I need but I'm still fine with it.


Hello Cebu City! Above left is the first thing I saw outside the window upon landing. šŸ˜† On the right is part of the view from when I was already walking inside the airport.

I've never been to Cebu in my entire life until May of this year. Amazing right? šŸ˜‚ I don't travel much so of course I had no reason to go there before I decided to join a training for a new career. Everything was just new to me.


My two bags were with me on the plane so I didn't need to go to the baggage claim area. That's another thing I like about the trip. Hehe.

Anyway same as in NAIA, everything inside the airport is spacious. It's also clean and has many food shops, etc., too. Several pictures of the various tourist spots one can visit can be seen in many areas as well.

Pictures at the escalator going down to the baggage claiming area.


Blurred but at least you see what I call the waiting area before leaving (or after entering) the terminal.

I called my friend and told her I was already in MCIA. Haha. What fun. We talked for several minutes and then she informed me I should ride a white taxi once I got outside.

Of course there are also taxi drivers trying to catch people's attention. I still chose to ride a non-airport taxi. Oh hey, look how organized it is. I love it. So easy to get a taxi there.


From there I went on to my destination. Oh yeah!

That's all for now folks! In my next article I will share with you how different it was going back to Manila from Cebu.

Have you also experienced this kind of traveling by air since last year up to now? Feel free to share how different it is from before.



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