Monday, April 14, 2014

SkyJet: Manila to Batanes Flight Review (Round-Trip)

Last October, I started thinking about different places to go for my annual vacation in 2014. I had never been to Batanes before and I was curious why so many travellers had been dreaming of going there. Since I travel somewhere each year, I decided to go to Batanes for my vacation this year. I booked my tickets on October 21 and planned my trip for January 29-31, 2014.

skyjet flights batanes
Copyright Photo: R.Badillo/PFN
Although I had not travelled with SkyJet before, I decided to fly with them because they advertised that they offered the "fastest flights" to Basco. Since my annual holiday time is limited, I wanted to ensure that I enjoyed every precious minute of my vacation. The SkyJet ticket was the most expensive airfare I have ever paid in spite of booking months in advance. They were more expensive than PAL Express but it was more important to me to have a faster flight.

SkyJet advertises that their flight from Manila to Basco takes 1 hour and 10 minutes on their Bae-146 jet aircraft. Since PAL Express uses the Q400 turbo-prop aircraft, their flight takes longer at 1 hour and 45 minutes. SkyJet is the only airline providing jet service to Batanes. Although my trip was originally scheduled for January, I was notified by SkyJet in advance that my flight had been cancelled due to maintenance on the aircraft. They rebooked my ticket for February 3-5 instead.

Unlike PAL Express, SkyJet flights depart from the old Manila Domestic Terminal also known as NAIA Terminal 4. My flight was very early in the morning scheduled to depart at 5:30am. I was supposed to check in at around 3:30am but I arrived at the terminal an additional hour earlier at 2:30am. When I approached the check-in counter, I was first in line. When I received my boarding pass, I was shocked to see that the flight's departure time had changed to 6:20am. This gave me nearly four hours to wait. I was frustrated and disappointed that I was not sent an e-mail or given any prior notification that the flight schedule had changed. When I questioned the staff at the check in counter, they seemed confused and did not know why my flight had been delayed. The SkyJet staff could improve their service by ensuring that they are able to answer all passenger's questions.

After completing my check-in, I proceeded to the waiting area at Terminal 4. Since the terminal is small, it did not take long to go through the check-in and security. Terminal 4 is very simple with just one large waiting area for all flights. But there are a few places where you can buy something to eat and there is also a Seattle's Best Coffee.

skyjet flights
Copyright Photo: R.Badillo/PFN
Several hours later, it was finally time to board my flight. The aircraft was a four-engined Bae 146-100 aircraft. It can carry 79 passengers. This is the only aircraft operated by SkyJet. I found the seats to be quite comfortable. As part of my ticket, SkyJet includes 10 kilograms of checked luggage, 5 kilograms for hand-carry, as well as in-flight snacks and beverages.

skyjet flights
Copyright Photo: R.Badillo/PFN
Our snacks were catered by Delifrance. We were served a chocolate croissant, a small sandwich, and a miniature fruit tart. They were all very "petit" and not good enough to satisfy an appetite in spite of the expensive airfare. Lucky for me, I brought my own "baon" so that I did not go hungry. We did not have a choice of beverages. They served a bottle of mineral water and sparkling wine in champagne glasses. But there was no alcohol in it. They called it juice. The rest of the flight went smoothly and we eventually arrived in Batanes.


Two days later, it was already the end of my vacation and I had to return home to Manila. At Basco Airport, I felt that security could use a little bit of improvement but the staff were very kind and accommodating. My flight was scheduled for 7:10am but the flight was delayed again. We did not end up departing until after 9:00am. I heard that the reason the flight was delayed was to exchange the landing slot with PAL Express. Others said that it was because Kris Aquino and her staff were supposed to be aboard the flight but they cancelled it because she was feeling sick.

skyjet flights batanes
Copyright Photo: R.Badillo/PFN
In spite of that, service in the air was great. We were provided with the usual snacks again and the same non-alcohol sparking wine. I wanted to take more photos inside the plane but I did not want to draw attention to myself. We eventually landed safely in Manila although we were a couple of hours behind schedule.
skyjet flights
Copyright Photo: R.Badillo/PFN
Overall, I enjoyed my trip. But compared to my past travels to Boracay, Palawan, and Cebu, I did not feel that the value of the ticket was fair for what I received. Perhaps Batanes is so expensive because there are limited flights with only two airlines. It would be nice to have more competition to lower the airfare. Maybe that would bring more tourists. I flew with Cebu Pacific and Airphil Express (now PAL Express) on my previous vacations and they did not offer any snacks. But I did get a discounted fare from Cebu Pacific when I booked in advance.

SkyJet was a more classy airline compared to other carriers that I have travelled with. It was the only airline where I have experienced being served a snack. But I'm not sure if that's really worth the extra money. I booked with SkyJet because they advertised that they offered the faster flight but with all of the delays, I did not save any time by choosing them. In spite of that, I would still fly with SkyJet again but if I found a lower airfare from PAL Express or another airline, I would try flying with them.

I have already recommended SkyJet to a friend of mine that is planning to go to Batanes later this year. But if I had to return to Batanes, I will choose the airline that gives the lowest airfare. If you are planning a trip to Batanes, it is more practical to choose the lowest airfare because you will need the extra money for food and transportation which is very expensive in Batanes compared to other places in the Philippines.

Flight Review by R. Badillo

Would you like to visit Batanes? Check out our Batanes hotel promos!

9 comments :

  1. exactly my point, how come airline fare to Batanes is much more expensive than fares going to some of our regional neighbor countries...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cebu Pacific was just received their new Airbus A320 equipped with sharklets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pinangunahan ko na kayo ng balita.

      Delete
  3. Batanes' cost of food is actually cheaper than Coron (considering quantity and quality). PAL serves snacks (usually a pack of cookies and peanuts) on local flights. If you want cheap fares to Batanes, just watch for the seat sale. I have been to Batanes twice, and in both occasions, my fare was less than 4k round trip (i am a shoestring-budget-traveler usually). The first was with Seair 4 years ago, and the other was when PAL launched flights to Batanes last year.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have inquired Cebu Pac about the fare Manila to Batanes 2 years ago and it totaled a wooooopppiiing Php13,000 + back and fort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cebu Pacific does not fly to Batanes at the moment. You can choose from PAL Express, SkyJet, or air Republiq. air Republiq has a promo to Batanes for just P3,788 one-way all in: http://airrepubliq.com/

      Delete
  5. Do they have in-flight entertainment?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no in-flight entertainment on board any SkyJet aircraft.

      Delete
  6. Is there a promo fare / seat sale at skyjet airline going to batanes.

    ReplyDelete