Philippines Airlines Review
Undoubtedly the fastest way to get around the Philippines, there are quite a few airlines flying into and within the country. Currently there are 10 International Airports/Aerodromes as classified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) allowed to accept international flights and these are Clark Airport (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) in Pampanga, Davao (Francisco Bangoy International Airport) in Davao City, General Santos International Airport in South Cotabato, Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City, Kalibo International Airport in Aklan, Laoag City International Airport in Ilocos Norte, Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu, Ninoy Aquino International Airport/NAIA (Terminals 1,2,3) in Metro Manila, Subic International Airport, and Puerto Princesa International Airport.
Photo by storm-crypt
Not all of these airports have regular international flights, however. (Bacolod-Silay International Airport and Iloilo International Airport are not included on this list according to the CAAP website – http://www.caap.gov.ph/web/airports.htm). Currently, there are ongoing constructions and plans of constructing more international airports or expanding existing ones as tourism continues to rise in the Philippines such as the Laguindingan International Airport in Cagayan de Oro, the Panglao-Bohol International Airport, the Legazpi City International Airport and many others. Aside from these international airports, there are about 17 Class 1 Airports, 13 Class 2 Airports, and 47 Community Airports scattered all throughout the Philippines.
Let us do a quick review of the leading airlines in the Philippines:
Southeast Asian Airlines SEAIR
Official Website: www.flyseair.com
Photo from SEAIR Facebook Group
SEAIR in the Philippines was established in 1995 and is in its own right, a pioneer airline of sorts catering to destinations not normally served by the bigger airlines. The planes’ are small compared to major airlines in the Philippines but it boasts of being able to reach remote destinations in the Philippines such as Basco (Batanes), Jolo (Sulu), Bongao-Sanga-Sanga (Tawi-Tawi) – the latter two leave from Zamboanga. It also has seasonal flights to Baler (Aurora), Daet (Camarines Norte). El Nido (Palawan), Masbate, Borongan (Eastern Samar), Taytay (Palawan), and Busuanga (Palawan). The regular routes are Caticlan (Hub), Manila (Main Hub), Clark, Cebu, Marinduque and Tablas (Romblon).
We flew to Batanes last November 2009 with SEAIR, and even though I was quite worried at first (this was the smallest plane that I have ever been on), the take off was smooth and the entire flight was actually enjoyable and I wouldn’t hesitate taking SEAIR flights in the future.
Official Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Photo by fox2mike
Philippine Airlines (PAL) is Asia’s first airline the country’s flag carrier. It was established in February 26, 1941 and the maiden flight was on a Manila to Baguio route on March 15, 1941. PAL was also the first Asian airline to cross the Pacific on a flight from Manila to Oakland, California in the United States on July 13, 1946 and for decades since then was one of Asia’s biggest airlines (it leased some of its aircraft to a DC-3 to Japan Airlines in 1951 and this lead to the founding of Japan’s own national airline). However, PAL succumbed to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and was forced to drastically cut down most of its routes, a lot of them were unprofitable and for a period of 14 days, the airline shut down (the first Asian airline to do so) after a period of employee strikes and downright incompetence. This incompetence was shown in frequent plane delays that resulted in Filipinos giving the airline a special moniker – PAL = Plane Always Late. New competitor Cebu Pacific pounced on this and advertised themselves as “On time 95% of the time.” PAL entered a period of rehabilitation and in 2000 finally returned to profitability and slowly restored international and domestic routes that were abandoned and more routes are being planned. Flights were less delayed now than they were before.
Despite the moniker, I have always found my PAL experience actually good. The landings and the take-offs were smooth and the cabin well-appointed. It doesn’t hurt that PAL has an airport terminal (Centennial Terminal/NAIA Terminal 2) of its own. The main drawback for PAL is the relatively high cost of its flights which can be quite a big turn-off for the budget traveler. However, if one can afford it, PAL is actually a good choice.
Official Website: www.airphils.com
Photo by borgy1981
PAL Express is the low-cost regional carrier of Philippine Airlines and is being operated by Air Philippines. The airline operates intra-regional routes and caters to secondary routes to smaller airports that are not able to accommodate PAL’s bigger aircraft.
We have flown with PAL Express from Manila to Busuanga and we found the service okay and prompt. The aircraft was newish and the flight was smooth, and no frills. However, most of PAL’s Express destinations are not exactly missionary routes as other airlines fly to the same destinations. Nevertheless, PAL Express makes the airline industry more competitive and we would not mind taking a PAL Express flight if we need to.
Cebu Pacific Air
Official Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Photo by seasonalplume
Cebu Pacific, with its aggressive marketing and selling strategies, effectively took a huge chunk of domestic market especially when PAL’s marketing strategies were still stuck in the Stone Age. Initially positioning itself as “On Time 95% of the Time,” it was an instant hit among domestic travelers who were fed up with PAL’s frequent delays. To sweeten the deal, Cebu Pacific literally brought down the cost of airfares in the Philippines by offering promos like 1 Peso Flights (exclusive of taxes and surcharges of course), which is of course nothing new as similar budget carriers such as Ryanair, Air Asia and Tiger Airways have done the same thing in their own respective markets, but of course this was a novel idea for the Filipino plane riding public who were too exasperated by the exorbitant costs charged by PAL. Finally, this company was brave enough to compete with PAL who up until then had a virtual monopoly of the aviation industry in the Philippines.
Cebu Pacific was aggressive in opening new routes whether they were international or domestic routes with about 40 destinations now under its belt and it has acquired a new fleet, the youngest commercial planes in the Philippines. But the honeymoon ends there. Cebu Pacific in its rush to take the market share forgot one thing that is essential in every company – a competent and reliable customer service. I have experienced several inconveniences at the hands of this airline – not only with flights getting delayed and being moved without due compensation more than one time. Up until now, I am still waiting for the refund of my ticket for a canceled international flight that I booked and paid for back in July 2008. Yes, I bought a ticket that could be refunded, I know and they know about this, because every time I call their so-called customer service hotline, some moron always gives me a stock answer that my refund is still being processed by their Accounting Department. After over 3-4 months of patiently waiting (90 Business Days), I called and I got the same stock answer and when I asked to be forwarded to their Accounting Number, I got forwarded to at least 3 different numbers where no one ever picked up and an email address where no one ever replied. I tried different tacks to no avail. Cebu Pacific, pretty much, stole my money. And I am by no means the only one. The problem has gotten so bad that you actually search for the “I Hate Cebu Pacific Airlines” Group on Facebook. Their website was slow as well, and full of bugs, my French friend got billed twice on her credit card on the same flight and it took her 4 months to get the refund – right after she stormed into their office at the Manila Domestic Airport. There were numerous instances that seats were overbooked too and sometimes details were messed up by their agents and we ended up paying more than twice the amount of the original ticket because of their mistake.
Delays are getting pretty common as well, which is probably the reason why they changed the slogan from “On Time 95% of the Time” to “Now Every Juan Can Fly.” My friend was stuck in the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro for 8 hours because of “bad weather” which was quite funny because the Philippine Airlines flights were landing and taking off on schedule. And did I tell you that one of their flight attendants on our flight from Cagayan de Oro to Manila last September was a totally rude? We were on our final descent and the crew was telling everyone to put their tray up, and I wanted to, if only they were able to take the trash off my tray after I called their attention for the 3rd time. Then this ugly flight attendant barked at me telling me to wait even when I had already waited for a long time, I swear I could have registered the first air rage ever recorded in the Philippines if I wasn’t too tired by hitting her with my empty mineral water bottle! Some of their flight attendants are not only butt ugly but also need serious charm schooling. I also remember at least 2 flight attendants on an international flight who started literally screaming “Where is your passport??!!!” over and over at a passenger because the old toad who didn’t speak English had sneaked inside the loo to smoke during the flight, triggering the alarm. The flight attendants could have handled it a lot better.
The last booboo was just recently (December 2009) when the flight attendants of the airline refused carriage to a woman and her special needs child on a flight from Hong Kong to Manila. After an hour delay, the kid was eventually allowed to board but to the chagrin of his mom who felt humiliated by the incident and was determined to press criminal and civil lawsuits. The incident made its way to national TV and all Cebu Pacific could do was apologise, BY SENDING A TEXT MESSAGE. How crude is that? Read the story here -http://www.gmanews.tv/story/180943/mother-of-special-child-cries-discrimination-vs-airline.
Another mother of a special needs child also complained of being ill-treated on the same flight – Read here – http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/01/08/10/down-syndrome-mom-complains-cebu-pacific-discrimination-too.
Complaints are rife online – http://www.cebupacificairlines.ph/told-to-address-complaints-vs-service/ and here http://laserboy.multiply.com/journal/item/11 .
All in all, never fly Cebu Pacific unless you really have to and pay in cash as much as possible. Before paying, make sure to check, double check and even triple check the details, because if Cebu Pacific messes up it will cost you.
Official Website: www.zestair.com.ph
Photo by kristone
Zest Airways started in September 1995 under the name Asian Spirit. It was sold to AMY Holdings in March 2008 and was renamed Zest Airways and flies to a lot of major destinations and two international destinations – Singapore and South Korea (Kalibo-Korea). I’ve flown with Asian Spirit before and although the flight was smoother than expected, the aircraft was old. In the end, all of the old aircraft were retired and the company started a gradual refleeting. I’ve flown with Zest Airways on its new A320-200 from Manila to Puerto Princesa (and vice versa) in 2009 and I thought the take-offs were a little too uncomfortable for me, there was a gradual climb and then a weird gradual descent afterwards. I regularly fly with A320s but I don’t recall ever having that experience. Same thing happened on our way back to Manila too.
Customer service was okay, the price is competitive and they also fly to a respectable number of destinations as well. I wouldn’t really mind flying with them again, although I have to shake that creepy feeling I get from their takeoffs.
Ryan supports socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism, as well as the promotion of the Philippines as an alternative Asian tourist destination.
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