Monday, December 12, 2016

Trip Report: Cebu Pacific A320 Boracay to Manila in Economy 5J 900

pros
  • cheap
  • A320 instead of a puddle-jumper
  • the coolest airport shuttle EVER

cons
  • frequent delays and cancelations out of Caticlan airport
  • loud, terrible, unescapable christmas music throughout the tiny terminal


how i did it

Cash – US$115 per person, one way. This is with the supplemental charges for seat selection and a checked bag and all fees and taxes. 


flight


This flight actually started out on Philippine Airlines, departing at the crack of dawn to get to Manila in time for our noon flight home on Korean Air. A couple weeks before the trip I got an email from Philippine Airlines telling me my flight had been canceled and that I'd been moved to a later flight. Since the new time would cause me to miss my connection, and because a native told me that Caticlan is notorious for random cancelations and delays, I decided to just cancel the ticket (with a full refund because of the schedule change) and fly out the night before.

I poked through the flight options and noticed that one of the flights on Cebu Pacific was actually on a full size A320 instead of the puddle jumpers that normally fly this route. Since we had a lot of luggage, this seemed like a good option. 

Boracay is served by two airports: Caticlan (MPH) and Kalibo (KLO). Caticlan is much smaller and much closer to Boracay, but you can only fly to Manila and Cebu. Kalibo has a lot more destinations, but it's a 90 minute van ride away. We flew in to Kalibo from Taipei and in retrospect the van ride to the Boracay ferry is probably as much of a schlep as having an extra flight leg from MPH from Manila. It's entertaining, but it's a wild and bumpy ride. 

The airport itself isn't actually on the island of Boracay, so you have to take a very "rustic" airport transport boat from Boracay to the airport. We were able to jump from the gangway onto the beach, but my friends actually had to be carried by the boat staff due to unfavorable landing conditions. Don't wear your Pradas on this leg of the trip (unless they're Prada flip-flops)


coolest. airport shuttle. EVAR!


The terminal is small and air conditioned and there's lots of seating upstairs but people seemed to prefer to crowd into the downstairs area so they could be near the bus boarding doors. There's bathrooms, cafe and snack stands, and a TV showing CNN. Our flight was on time and we boarded our bus for the drive out to the plane. It was cool because we got to drive down the tarmac in the bus.

We boarded the plane from both ends. it was 30°C and 90% humidity so we were very grateful the pilot had already powered up the air conditioning before we got onboard. I've seen AC condensation before, but nothing like this. 



The 29" seat pitch wasn't exactly comfortable, but the flight is like half an hour. The flight attendants actually play a game on board where they name a random item (chapstick, house keys, etc) and the first person to hold that thing up wins a prize. Snacks and drinks were available for purchase, but the flight is so short you might just want to wait until Manila. 

A320

29" slimline seats

Great scenery

Flight attendant games


manila

Manila is huge and chaotic and rough. You'll need a little more caution and research to sightsee in Manila than you would in, say, Tokyo or Seoul. Departing the airport you have a very New York-style scrum of unlicensed drivers trying to recruit you into their cars. My friend who lives there says the biggest risk with these is that they overcharge you (i.e., they're not unsafe). You can also take Uber or use the local alternative ride-sharing App, Grab. The advantage of Grab is that they have an official Grab waiting area at the airport, but we had no trouble finding our Uber driver by just using the app to tell it which bay you're waiting at. I mention all of this because there's a lot of stale blog posts floating around the internet saying that Uber doesn't work at MNL airport and it works just fine. 

No, really, my 6km/22 minute ride from the airport cost US$2.63!!

Uber is cheap and efficient

Use the Uber app to indicate which bay you're waiting at

Or use Grab, the local alternative

FYI, there's a vast food court on the 3rd floor of Terminal 4 and there's a Jollibee there. They're also building another one on the ground floor. To me, it's sorta like White Castle, so bad it's almost good. Get the hot dog spaghetti with fried chicken.


Jollivee!

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