Airport review: Little El Nido, Palawan, the Philippines

 

OFFICIAL IATA CODE

ENI

THE FLIGHT

T6 516 to Puerto Princesa, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

Little El Nido airport is a privately owned airport 25 minutes north of El Nido town, in northern Palawan. I'm staying at nearby Seda Lio resort, which has a private, free shuttle from the hotel to the airport. Otherwise, it costs PHP300 in a trike (the Filipino version of a tuk-tuk) from El Nido town. Also called Lio Airport, you'll probably find yourself here if you're island-hopping through Palawan's pristine landscape. It's serviced by only one airline, Air Swift.

THE LOOK

The two-room airport is just one year old, and is owned by the same company that owns the mid-range Lio Resorts nearby and the four high-end El Nido island resorts (and, incidentally, Air Swift). It shares the resorts' same white walls and high, pitched dark brown roofs, in classic tropical modernism style. There are just four check-in desks and a large waiting room filled with utilitarian plastic seats and, importantly in steamy Palawan, good air-con.

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CHECK-IN

It takes just a few minutes to check in, and you can see the gate from the check-in desk. I get the feeling you'd have to be pretty unlucky to miss the flight: everyone's professional and also gorgeously friendly. 

SECURITY

There are two security checks: one at the airport entrance, the other into the departure lounge. Both are quick and easy. A rubbish bin beside the second screening point is filled with water bottles, shells and someone's ripe mango. 

FOOD AND DRINK

Best eat lunch before you arrive, as there are no formal food outlets here. However, there is a free, friendly snack bar serving drip-filter coffee, iced water and the Philippines' own green pandan or purple yam milky iced tea, accompanied by free snacks of fried bananas coated in sugar. It may not be to your taste, but it's fun to try local street snacks.

RETAIL THERAPY

Nope: a surprise, in mall-mad Philippines. However, there are rumours of expansion as tourism in northern Palawan takes off.

PASSING TIME

Aviation geeks will relish the chance to watch the twin-turboprops touching down meters from the departure lounge windows, but otherwise, bring a book. I can't get the Wi-Fi to work, either. There is a separate lounge for guests of the four island El Nido Resorts, which start at about US$700 a night, but a sneaky peek shows they're not exactly lavish. However, if you had more than an hour to spare, opt instead to spend it at Lio Beach's brace of excellent cafes, bars and restaurants, or the beautifully clean, eminently swimmable beach on which they're located. The beach resort is five minutes by trike or free bus shuttle from the airport.

ONE MORE THING

When booking your Air Swift flight, request a window seat – the views taking off or landing at this airport are breathtaking, with the islands and beaches of the Bacuit archipelago spread out below. 

THE VERDICT

It's the sweetest little airport, brimming with good cheer, but not a place you want to stay more than necessary.

OUR RATING

3.5/5

See www.air-swift.com 

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Seda Lio Resort, and flew at her own expense.

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