Surviving Cebu Pacific: Philippines’ budget airline

Cebu Pacific

I just got back from a 9 hour flight using Cebu Pacific’s international flight from Manila to Dubai. I’ve heard horror stories from scorned customers and terrible reviews but while searching for options for my route, the inarguably cheaper fare always come back to me like an annoying pop-up ad.

It’s my first time using this airline for international travel (I have used them for travel within the Philippines as they’re so much cheaper than the national carrier – Philippine Airlines) so I intended to prepare for the discomforts and told myself that the most important thing is to arrive alive, I could do the other small sacrifices.

Budget airlines are like simple, basic vehicles that take you from Point A to Point B and nothing else.

There are things you need to know and prepare for before your flight to be able to at least curse less when you arrive at your destination. Here are some important things you need to know that’s not included in the basic fare and the workaround to it:

1. BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE

Basic fare in most if not all budget airlines only has one hand carry as baggage allowance included. Cebu Pacific Airlines only allows 7 kilos for one hand carry. If you’re flying a budget airline to save on cost, skip the checked bag. If you absolutely need to check your luggage, be sure to pay for it at the time of booking or buy before checking in.

Survival tip:

  • Pre-plan your baggage and stick to what you purchased online. Budget airline policies on baggage allowance is very strict and they charge $$$ at the airport upon check in. 
  • Stick to the ONE hand carry only policy. A purse, a backpack, a laptop bag, a shopping bag, a fanny pack – each of these is considered one bag.
  • Crazy tip or not (!): Wear as much clothing when travelling as possible. Wearing three shirts, two jackets, two scarves and heaviest foot wear may sound like a lot, but I bet, it is better than paying that additional money for an over-sized or overweight bag. It’s cold inside the plane so it can help warm you up too!

2. MEALS

Meals, snacks and refreshments on board? Forget it. Cebu Pacific flight attendants sell hot meals on board, with a hefty price! I was shocked that the meal set was priced at PHP500 (US$11)

Survival tip:

  • Bring your own food, (you’d probably like them more than the ones offered on the flight anyway) and an empty water bottle you can fill up before boarding. Nothing worse than being hungry or thirsty while on a flight and hating yourself for buying expensive food on board!

3. BLANKETS

Ok – this really caught me by surprise! I always bring a light jacket (sweater or cardigan) and a scarf/shawl whenever I travel so I was better off than the other passengers who wore t-shirts during the flight.

However, the fact that blankets were not free caught me off guard. Even with a light jacket, I still need a blanket, dammit! The flight attendants were walking back and forth the aisle ‘peddling’ stuffs from meals, snacks, drinks to blankets!

Survival tip:

  • Bring your own blanket, if you feel you need it. I do. Or do survival tip on item #1 – wear plenty of clothing!
  • Bring other material to help you sleep a little better too like neck pillows, eye mask, etc.

4. FREE FOR ALL SEATING

Choosing a seat on a Cebu Pacific flight comes with a price. The seats are also smaller. I was sandwiched between two big, burly men on my flight

Survival tip:

  • When all the passengers have boarded, be on the lookout of vacant seats around and transfer! (I was lucky there were empty seats so I was able to claim a better space)

5. IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

If you have not flown any budget airlines in the past, you must have heard from the people who have been in it or read from their website if you opened your eyes wide enough to see it or if these airlines even mentions this crucial information that there will be no screens in front of you.

I am here to tell you that the rumors are true -in-flight entertainment in budget airlines is non-existent (I’ve been to only two so far: Ryan Air and Cebu Pacific). So better find something to kill the time during your flight!

Survival tip:

  • Obviously, bring something to kill time: books to read, a device loaded with movies if you’re that type of person who really likes watching movies on the plane (I’m not – I read a book and used my Moleskine note and pen to write things. In fact, I drafter this blog post by hand during my flight!)

The experience on low-cost carriers is vastly different from what you find on other airlines, and passengers who are caught by surprise are generally the ones who end up paying the most so I hope these survival tips can help you in some way.

Would I use this budget airline again? To be honest, as much as possible, NO. This time, I was travelling alone so I wasn’t too worried. But I would never fly with this airline if I’m travelling with my children. The discomfort is not worth it (I can’t imagine during peak season when the plane is full).

What are your favorite tips for surviving a budget flight? Share in the comments below!

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