Our choice of low-cost carriers has expanded significantly since Jetstar first graced Australian shores in 2003, on both domestic and international routes. Thankfully – the service provided has improved significantly as well.
This is certainly the case with Cebu Pacific.
Effective this month, Cebu Pacific operate five flights per week direct from Sydney to Manila. It’s also now the largest carrier inside the Philippines, with multiple daily flights across the archipelago. So basically, it’s the airline most likely to get you to that beachside deckchair the fastest. And cheapest.
But what is the experience like? From start to finish, pretty damn good.
The check-in process is usually what sets the tone for the duration – long queues and insufficient staff usually makes for a planeload of grumpy people.
But this isn’t the case with Cebu Pacific. Check in at Sydney, and at all other ports we flew on this trip to The Philippines, was fast and efficient. Even at the smallest airport we visited in Busuanga on Bohol Island, (little more than a tin shed with only one check-in counter), the whole procedure took less than a two minutes.
We’re in Premium Economy seats, which have ample legroom and enough space for my laptop so I can work without having it half-closed against the seat in front. A quick inspection down the aisle is enough to determine that actually, the difference in legroom between Economy and Premium Economy is marginal.
You are able to choose your seats online when you book tickets, and again when you check-in, so it’s worthwhile having a look to make sure you’re seated where you want to be, and not next to the toilet (which can tends to be a busy place at times).
There is plenty of room in the overhead lockers for our bulky camera equipment, helped by the fact that the ground crew is strict about carry-on allowance, weighing and measuring all carry-on bags.
I think this is a smart move; there’s nothing worse than getting on a flight and finding the person sitting next to you has taken up the entire overhead locker space with a bulky trundle bag that barely fits in, and shopping bags full of souvenirs and duty free alcohol.
We pre-ordered our meals online when we booked our tickets, able to choose from a wide and varied selection of dishes, which includes a range of Western, Filipino, Malaysian, Indian and Chinese food, with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
If you don’t get around to ordering online however, there’s still plenty of time to order inflight; it doesn’t cost any more and there’s just as wide a range of meals to choose from.
I chose a Filipino noodle dish, eager to try out the local food – and it didn’t disappoint. Served piping hot within an hour of taking off, by an attentive flight attendant, always there to top up my glass of water before I even have to ask.
Which leaves me to free to read, snooze and maybe catch up on a bit of writing for the rest of the (daytime) flight.
The inflight magazine proves an entertaining read. Instead of pages and pages of product reviews and celebrity interviews, this inflight magazine has inspiring travel features and really useful travel guides.
The issue on board this month (July) has a focus on cycling holidays around Asia and a fantastic guide to eating out in Manila, which I take notes from for our few nights in the city. Pages full of beautiful photography and interesting stories, it kept me entertained for a few hours.
There is no inflight entertainment, however the cabin crew make up for this by ensuring we’re all well taken care of, and even playing a few games.
It’s a Cebu Pacific tradition to play guessing games with passengers and hand out prizes to the winners. This is a great idea, everyone seems to enjoy the novelty of winning a prize (especially the kids) – even if it’s only a Cebu Pacific-branded pencil case.
And the game rolls neatly into a promotion for their range of souvenirs available for purchase on the next trolley that rolls down the aisle (nice segue).
We arrive at each destination happy and reasonably refreshed, prizewinners grinning and thanking the crew as we disembark, ready for the next adventure. In fact I don’t think I saw a single disgruntled passenger on any of the domestic or international flights we took on this visit to the Philippines. Thumbs firmly up.
The largest airline in the Philippines, Cebu Pacific flies direct from Sydney to Manila five times weekly. It offers the most extensive network in the Philippines, providing guests with seamless, same-terminal flight connections to island destinations such as Boracay, Cebu, Palawan or Siargao.
For bookings and reservations, please visit: www.cebupacificair.com or call reservations on 02 9119 2956.
Fare prices: The lowest year-round all-inclusive fares from Sydney to Manila start at $299, with the lowest promotional fares offered starting from $99 (periodic seat sales).