2 or 3 Things I Know About Cebu Pacific
Flying Cebu Pacific for Beginners
You are probably thinking that this post is some screed about being hosed by Cebu Pacific. Its genesis is a missed flight, but the post is more of a quick user’s manual. It all started when I decided to take an early flight from Manila to Dumaguete — a 04:55 flight, actually.
I missed the flight. No, I didn’t oversleep: I just didn’t prepare.
Let Me Explain
Yes, Cebu Pacific is hugely discombobulated. They have workarounds for their chronic delays, slow lines, and silly rules. Special check-in lines for passengers who are late because of slow check-in lines is just plain silly. Toyota executives’ existential hell is a flight on Cebu Pacific.
To be fair, Cebu Pacific isn’t solely to blame. Philippines airports suffer from endemic infrastructure limitations that the Internet, mobile service, road systems and waste disposal all share — too many people, too little capacity. Welcome to our Malthusian future.
Why I Like Cebu Pacific
Cebu Pacific has more direct flights to the places I want to go to (alert: plagiarized tagline). More daily flights to Dumaguete, flights from Dumaguete to Cebu, and direct flights to Siem Reap, Phuket, and Bali.
The Getgo program is pretty good and they actually credit the trips — unlike PAL. My PAL frequent flyer program has been in administrative limbo for years. Good luck getting your miles credited with PAL, pal.
Occasionally they have great super great fares. Now every Juan can fly. Get it? Seriously, the peso fares are awesome when you are lucky enough to get one.
Cebu Pacific Travel Hacks Since It’s Still a Pain-in-the-Ass
So, Cebu Pacific works pretty well for me, but there are some techniques for flying low-cost style that you want to keep in mind.
Manila tower sets the tempo for flights around the archipelago and she’s pretty ruthless about marooning or delaying you on tarmacs in far-flung airports. Things slow as the day progresses.
An early start to the day seems to mitigate the flight schedule entropy. Starting early also gets you around traffic if you are leaving from Manila or Cebu.
I also have a pet theory about PAL getting preferential treatment, but I’m probably just paranoid that way.
Budget Time for Lines and Extended Families
Even if, or perhaps especially, when you leave early from Manila the lines into the terminal are long. Might be staff or traveler somnolence. Might be that everyone just arrives damned early. Who knows…
Be on the lookout for large groups of people with lots of bags, questions, and special needs. They will screw you in the check-in line. Somehow they always appear in front of you in line after you’ve been patiently waiting.
Line etiquette and niceties like waiting your turn aren’t part of the equation, so get over it.
So Endeavor to Travel Light and Check-in Online
Light travel means you can avoid the worst of the lines. This doesn’t always work for me since I’m often lugging scuba and/or camping gear. For shooting up to Manila or Cebu, I use a pretty voluminous laptop bag that accommodates clothes, cameras, and a Dopp kit.
Online check-in suggests you can avoid the counter altogether. In theory, you are supposed to check-in after a web check-in to present your ID, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. The other option is airport kiosk check-in, which definitely means you don’t have to deal with the check-in lines.
A Word on Seat Reservation
I’m pretty fanatical about leg room, so I grab the front or the exit row. I’m happy to pay the extra P300 for this. The issue is that when the equipment (read airplane) changes, the seat arrangement changes but not your assignment.
The equipment changes all the time, so it’s prudent just to ask for an exit row on check-in or grab it when you check into the airport kiosk. It’s also free.
I recommend this approach for domestic flights. Since international flights are often fully booked, it’s best to go ahead and reserve the seats on booking.
Online Booking Hack
Cebu Pacific allows you to book a flight and pay within 24 hours, which is a useful tool for grabbing a good fare while you confirm your schedule. I use this feature and pay at Cebuana Lhuillier or pay via credit card. You can also pay at Seven Eleven if that’s your preference.