Cebu Pacific Flight Review: Manila to Cebu (Round-Trip)

It was a gloomy mid-morning when I arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) in Manila for my flight to Cebu. I was dismayed at seeing one long line outside the only gate opened but after a few minutes, airport officials decided to open Gate 5 so some of us transferred.

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Inside NAIA 3 was a working air-conditioner that made the check-in experience a breeze. For all the long lines outside, there wasn’t really a lot of people flying that morning. There was only one passenger ahead of us and we were it the moment we stopped to wait for our turn. We could have skipped this section as we had already done web check-in but we needed to check in my luggage.

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My friend and I had a lot of time to kill afterwards and as it was near lunch time, we decided to eat at Shakey’s before proceeding to the departure area. This is one of the reasons why I love flying out of NAIA 3. Not only is the air-conditioning working, but there are a lot of familiar restaurants that serve good food at regular prices.

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Shakey’s is located on the floor above the check-in and departure areas so naturally, we had to find our way down back. We ignored the immediate flight of stairs near it as we wanted to use the escalator some meters away. My friend still had her hand-carry luggage as she did not opt for the check-in service. However, none from the entire floor was going down so we looked for the side stairs and they were all sealed off that we had to go back to the Shakey’s area to go down. Retreating our steps, I noticed the above sign. I appreciate any effort to “improve” airport facilities but they should also provide signs to show us that all other stairs were cordoned off to avoid passengers like us from going to and fro. We must have worked off whatever calories we gained at Shakey’s! Thanks for the exercise, NAIA 3!

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Boarding time was supposed to commence ten minutes ago so I walked up to the counter to inquire why we had not boarded. The staff answered by saying she made an announcement that boarding was to be delayed by 40 minutes. My friend and I did not hear it at all. What we kept hearing were the announcements of other flights and airlines but not ours.

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Anyway, true to her word, we started boarding almost the time that we were supposed to taxi off. My friend was stopped by an airline representative requiring us to surrender her hand-carry for check-in as space was limited. We readily agreed as it was convenient for us and best of all, it was for free.

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We hopped on a shuttle bus and stayed for at least 10 minutes like a pack of sardines. There was no explanation given why we were just idling by.

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Finally, we were brought to our plane…

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…and we boarded.

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As I climbed the stairs, I realized that I made a mistake of wearing a summer dress as anyone underneath the stairs would have a free peep show.

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The time it actually took us to depart Manila was our original estimated time of arrival. The captain explained that the delay was caused by the usual “air traffic congestion and the late arrival of the turn-around aircraft.”

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Meals were served, or to be more precise, were offered for sale. As I am no fan of airline meals and their exorbitant prices as well as having eaten already, I skipped this service. I then observed one flight attendant bringing two rice meals to the pilots. At first, she just opened the door and walked in. Upon exiting, another attendant blocked the path with the cart before she came out. I guess this was to prevent anybody from taking advantage of the open cockpit door.

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Souvenirs for sale were rolled out afterwards by the cabin crew including one who was introduced as “Maleficent” during the safety procedure demo. I’m glad to see our crew was enjoying their private joke.

If there’s anything I like about flying Cebu Pacific is the games especially if I like the prizes like pouch, notepad and T-shirt which I have all won through a trivia game. (I seldom win at show-me games.) But the game for this flight was called off due to turbulence. Drat.

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Finally, we landed at Mactan Cebu International Airport.

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Baggage retrieval time was okay. Not long enough to make you impatient but not short enough to make you glad.

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As this was not my first time in Cebu, I noticed a change. The airport had removed the hotel showrooms at the baggage claim area and replaced them with the usual airport shops. Personally, I prefer the hotel showrooms as they showcase what the hotels have to offer and the sight of comfortable beds help relieve some flight stress. It also made the Cebu airport different as I have yet to see something like that at other airports here and abroad.

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The hotels are now just relegated to displaying their logos at a counter near the exit.

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Upon exiting the Cebu airport…

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…passengers who have no one to meet them can avail of taxis---either fixed or metered.

BABAY, BAY!

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And now it was time to leave Cebu. Like my experience coming in, check-in was quick and easy. Before I went to the airport, I checked the status of my flight online to make sure it was going to fly as scheduled. Last time I was in Cebu, I arrived at 11 am for my 1 pm flight only to be told at the check-in counter that my flight was delayed for four hours. Upset, I asked why I was not informed beforehand through email or text since they already knew it was going to be delayed and they had my contact information. I could have used the extra time sleeping in or seeing more of Cebu. The representative simply went on a mute mode.

So anyway, I was glad to see that my flight was “on schedule” and was encouraged all the more by the fact that all the previous Manila-bound flights that day flew on time.

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After the security clearance, I was impressed by how much livelier the atmosphere in the departure area had become. It looked busier and more colorful.

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There were new souvenir shops to help you not only to while the time away, but make you impressed with how creative Cebu can be.

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Looking at their works of art was such a feast for the eyes.

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Makes me wonder why we can’t do the same at NAIA.

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Mactan-Cebu Airport also has working computer stations with free Internet access.

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It has food shops that take a dig at airline meals.

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Generally speaking, Mactan-Cebu International Airport is a good airport for a developing city. So I am glad that it continues to improve to serve its rising number of tourists and passengers.

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Click here for the plans.

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And then it was time for us to board which commenced on time.

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For the first time in a long time, I walked inside a tube to board a Cebu Pacific aircraft where we entered by the middle door, not the front nor the rear.

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I have been flying Cebu Pacific ever since it was launched and I think this is the only time I have flown on a huge aircraft with three rows of seats. I asked the attendants if the aircraft (A330) was new and I got two different answers simultaneously. One answered in the affirmative while the other said no adding that it’s the one being used on flights to Dubai.

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I like the fact that the plane seems and smells kind of new but the seat did not impress me much. The bottom of the seat felt like there was a hollow space in the middle. My friend remarked it’s probably ergonomic but it didn't feel comfortable. Although I must admit I had completely forgotten all about it later. I’ll explain why in a minute.

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The aircraft may seem new but the literature was worn out by constant handling. I guess you expect that to happen on a flight with no entertainment at all.

While waiting for everyone to be boarded, I noticed some occasional shaking of the aircraft as they loaded the baggage. I have flown on smaller planes before which never shook when baggage was being loaded. And then I started noticing something else. It was beginning to feel kind of hot. At first I thought it was only me because I tend to get hot easily but I saw other passengers fanning themselves so I asked an attendant about the air-conditioning. He said it wasn't turned on yet. I wanted to ask what were they waiting for but he kept walking. A few passengers started murmuring, “Air-con!” Then came the announcement that changed everything---our departure will be delayed for at least 40 minutes due to air traffic control. So now we were going to be stuck in a plane with no air-conditioning at all for almost an hour!

A female passenger got up to the front where the cabin crew was and asked to be let out as she was starting to feel unwell. As that was not allowed, she was instead given oxygen to lower her now rising blood pressure. An attendant had started fanning her. The other attendants rolled out cold water. Some of the crew were already sweating.

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Some male passengers started converging in the front as it was cooler there for some reason. Others started complaining about the consequence to their connecting flights.

As I was on the second row, I overheard the captain requesting for permission to be allowed to open the door and have the tube reconnected to allow some air inside. A few minutes later, it was opened and some passengers immediately got out. I asked an attendant if we could leave as well but she said it wasn’t allowed. I then pointed out how some passengers had already gone out. She could only wince in frustration. Over the pubic announcement system, passengers were told to stay in the tube. (The air-conditioning was still not turned on, by the way.) One attendant was talking over the radio with somebody outside the plane explaining that once the air-conditioning was turned on, it will take at least half an hour to fully cool the aircraft. I could hear a few passengers muttering under their breath that Cebu Pacific was just being cheap. One compared his experience being inside a Cathay Pacific plane for 90 minutes with air-conditioning. Another suggested calling the Cebu Pacific hotline to complain but my friend remarked sarcastically, “No use. Wala naman sasagot. Magriring lang nang ring” (No one will answer. It will only ring.) Then he suggested posting live on Facebook.

A few minutes after the tube was connected, airport medical personnel entered to attend to the passenger suffering from high blood pressure. I guess she was feeling better as the personnel left soon after and she and her husband were transferred to the front row seats.Then we heard what we had been waiting for almost an hour---we were now ready to depart. The air-conditioner started making its presence felt. The taxi was kind of bumpy as if we were on a tricycle hurdling a lot of road humps.

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Meals were offered for sale. (After the ordeal, the least Cebu Pacific could have done was to offer more drinks for free.) There was none of its trademark game. I don’t know if they were trying to be sensitive, or it was because of the turbulence, or for lack of time as thirty minutes into the flight, the captain announced our start of descent.

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As I was seated near the restroom, I noticed how a lot of people was having a hard time pulling the doors open from the inside. Most tried to push at first then upon realizing it was to be the other way around, but the doors still won’t open. They seemed stuck. The attendants would every now and then help push. When I had to use it, I asked my friend to stand by in case I also experience the same difficulty. I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than being stuck inside. Our flight experience was already interesting enough without me adding to it.

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We finally landed at NAIA 3 with an apology from the captain for the delay “brought about by departure constraints and numerous arrivals from Manila.” I almost expected the passengers to groan and scoff when the attendant thanked us for making “Cebu Pacific your airline of choice.”

As people were in a hurry, the passengers started to converge by the front door only to find out that we will all be exiting by the middle door instead.

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After getting out of the tube, I timed the walk going to the carousel….

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which took only five minutes. It often felt longer than that.

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While waiting for my baggage, I noticed this sign. They really should remove the quotation marks on the words, “free” and “optional” as they suggest a wink-wink tone to it.

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This was one of the first items that came out of the carousel. It passed by me and I still couldn't tell what it was. Somebody was really into maximizing every centavo he paid for his check-in.

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My baggage came out around ten minutes and I was ready to meet my friend outside. Normally, my review would have ended here but the taxi service staff amused me.

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The taxi service staff was shouting, “Taxi?! Taxi?!” like market vendors at each and every passenger coming out. There really was no need to shout as people in need of a taxi would naturally line up where they were. Then they started shouting, “Mr. White! Mr. White!” I turned around and saw a Caucasian man in white going out. I had to laugh at their attempts. Sadly for them, Mr. White had another ride in mind. Only in Manila!

-THE PARANOID TRAVELER

3 comments:

  1. As usual dont expect low cost carrier ceb pac to care for its passengers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So much adventure in Cebupac alone! he he Nice read! Thanks for sharing stories. I just hope the airline mngmt has a way of checking web blogs, stories like this to improve customer service.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete

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