Bargain Flights around Asia – Cebu Pacific Economy

Cebu Pacific is a low cost carrier and a regular choice of mine for short trips around South East Asia.  With fares regularly less than half of what full-service carriers charge, what can you expect from an economy ticket?

Booking/Pre-Departure: The best way to book your flight is via Cebu Pacific’s web-site. It’s easy to use, get’s you the best fares and allows you to select seats, food and luggage options. Make sure to de-select what you don’t want – the site is defaulting to paid options!
Cebu Pacific allows only one bag up to 7kg, no personal item, as carry on. They do weigh it, if you check in at the airport counter. They might also gate-check wheeled carry-ons that look like they are above the weight limit. I travel light, with a backpack and have never had any issues.
Cebu Pacific (jet flights) flies out of Manila’s newest terminal 3, making pre-departure fairly pleasant. Cebu Pacific allows you to check in online, so with a small carry on only, you don’t have to go to the counter and can proceed straight to passport control. They do a document check at the gate, before boarding. With many of the passengers flying infrequently or for the first time, the boarding process is slightly chaotic, similar to other low-cost carriers in Asia. While Cebu Pacific has a process, it is generally ignored, resulting in a free for all charge at the gate. My recommendation is to be the best “gate lice” you can be, hang out near the door and board as soon as possible.

Service: The service is very friendly, similar to what you find on other regional carriers, making the flight generally pleasant. The staff is very patient with first-time fliers, exceptionally helpful to families and elderly passengers and happy to address any issue you bring to them – that’s more than you can say from many US or European carriers, regardless of ticket price! They also keep the rest rooms clean, something I wish all airlines would do!
They have food and drink for sale and it is actually better than most economy meals I’ve had recently, free or paid for. They have a number of Filipino classics, like Bistek Tagalog or Chicken Adobo, savory and sweet snacks (love their cookies!), coffee/tea, soft drinks, beer and wine. All of it is reasonably priced and a pretty good alternative to what you find at the airport. I usually buy a snack or meal, depending on time of day.

Hard Product: Cebu Pacific flies a number of different planes (read more here), all of them fairly new and very similar in what you get. None of the planes have any audio or video entertainment, so you have to bring your own, read the airline magazine (not too bad) or wait for the signature game mid-flight – you can win a Cebu Pacific logo item for answering a question or performing a task first.
CebuPac Eco InteriorAirbus A319/320: Cebu Pacific has a standard layout with 3-3 seats per row, same width as any other economy cabin on this plane. The seat pitch is 29in – that’s 2-3in less than what people complain about on US carriers and very painful if you are tall. At 6ft3, I usually pay extra to sit in the bulkhead row (or exit row), the only seats I can get comfortable in. The seats are clad in blue/green leather, the padding is pretty firm and the recline is minimal. They are comfortable enough for a few hours and similar to what other carriers offer for short-haul flights.
CebuPac A330 Eco3 (1)Airbus A330: Cebu Pacific is adding Airbus A330 to their long-haul fleets, mostly used to the Middle East and Australia. They have a 3-3-3 layout, similar to most economy cabins for this plane. Unfortunately, they use the same seat pitch of 29in, which is less than most other carriers on long-haul flights. There are only a few rows (bulkhead, exit) that have more room and are available for an extra charge. The seats are new, slimmer models than on the older A320, giving you a little extra room (maybe 1/2in), but that’s not much room for a long flight! I would only book a long-haul flight, if I was certain that one of the exit row seats is available. I couldn’t handle 8 hours with this little room!

Overall, flying Cebu Pacific is not glorious, it’s not very comfortable and you need to bring your own entertainment. But at the price you pay, it’s a great deal and I fly them frequently on domestic and short-haul international flights (less than 4h) from Manila. I have scored many 3-4h flights for under $100 and that is hard to beat when most full-service carriers charge 2-3 times as much on a regular basis! As long as you go in with low expectations and focus on the destination, Cebu Pacific can get you to some amazing destinations for very little and I expect to be a regular on their planes!

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