Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cebu Pacific Air: Singapore to Manila and back

Dec 11 2007 Update:
I've flown with Cebu Pacific from Manila to Singapore just last November and here's a short update:

  • Those extra pawikan points I gave in my original review because of their chic uniforms? Well it's gone now. Those hip, 60's inspired frocks have been replaced by gaudy yellow Bench-sponsored baby t-shirts and slacks. Ugh.
  • No more free iced tea on board.
  • No in-flight bring-me game
  • Check-in was surprisingly quick and the flight left as scheduled and arrived on time. Yay!
  • Getting my refund for a flight that I canceled took four months! And even then, I had to send countless of emails (that went un-replied). Although I didn't want to do it, I had a cousin of mine who works for Cebu Pacific go on and "follow it up". I got the refund a week after he looked at it. Plus points for my cousin, minus points for the lousy system.
On to my original review...

Rating: 2.5/5110.500
Cebu Pacific's new Airbus A319 aircraft and free iced tea do not make up for the fact that it takes more than an hour to check-in and the flights are rarely on-time. Its only saving grace are its evening (8:30pm from MNL) and red eye (00:40am from SIN) time slot.

Online Booking

Compared to Jetstar's (read my review of Jetstar here), Cebu Pacific's website leaves much to be desired:
  • First of all, they did not accept my Mastercard because they were implementing this fancy schmancy extra security "feature" which prompted me to key-in a PIN before my payment is authenticated. But... I don't have a PIN! I called up my bank and they said it's the merchant's problem and they can't help me. I did not encounter any problems using this credit card on other online banking sites so something funny's going on with Cebu Pacific.
  • Secondly-- you can't change your booking online. To do this, you must dial their call center in the Philippines. Eek!
  • Thirdly-- the website lacks those "nice touches" that Jetstar has: like showing flights a day before and a day after your target departure date so that you've got more choices or by showing a running total of your fare, etc...
  • Finally-- their E-ticket looks like crap. It's hard to quickly find the information you need because all the information (departure, duration, arrival, etc...) are listed in a table with no gridlines or visual clues to help your eyes quickly find what you're looking for.
How much is it?
If you book early (a month or two in advance), i've seen it go as low as SGD$79 (excluding the usual taxes and fees). This is at par with Tiger's prices (read my review of Tiger here) and is cheaper than Jetstar's usual SGD$128. During peak seasons like my upcoming flight on Chinese New Year, a round trip can cost about SGD$500-- a couple of bucks cheaper than PAL.

Moral of the story? Book early.

Long check-in times at Singapore's Budget Terminal

Checking in is a pain. It took me a little over an hour to get my bags checked in. (And yes, I was at the airport two hours before departure.) Maybe two counters just aren't enough for 124 passengers. Oh and BTW, there's no skybridge to the plane so you have to walk up a flight of stairs. The elderly or pregnant could have a little trouble specially if they're carrying heavy bags and if it's raining.

Even LONGER check-in times at Manila's NAIA!
Oooh what a nightmare! There were four counters shared by all Cebu Pacific flights serving Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore but before you could get to them, everyone had to go through a pre-line so that the bags could be weighed on a separate mobile weighing scale! (According to the ground staff at the counter, the weighing scales at the check-in counters were not accurate enough. WTF!) This pre-line resulted in the following:
  • Since everyone had to line up to use this mobile weighing scale, the queue got really loooong and snaked around the terminal. It was messy and people had to keep asking what the line was for because they couldn't believe it was so freaking long.
  • It moved very sloooow. By the time I got to the end, my freshly shaven chin had a slight stubble. How could it not move slow when they guy manning the weighing scale was giving away Cebu Pacific stickers, answering queries and doing a million other things!
  • Since passengers to different destinations were sharing the same weighing-scale queue, those flying to Hong Kong whose flights depart earlier had to queue behind us passengers flying to Singapore and Malaysia whose flights left later! These passengers were very, very nervous.
  • To appease their nervousness, there was a Cebu Pacific staffer going around the queues calling out "Hong Kong! Hong Kong! Anybody going to Hong Kong?". A passenger would meekly raise his hand and would be escorted to the front of the queue so he wouldn't be late.
Seriously, I've seen wet markets that were more orderly than this.

"Our Time is The New Filipino Time"
Three out of my three flights with Cebu Pacific were delayed. Two by more than an hour. One time it was late because the aircraft arrived late. Another time, we were late because passengers who checked-in didn't show up and their luggage had to be removed. Another time it was late because... *yawn*.

Who cares. If they boast to be on time, there's just simply no excuse to be late. They're giving Filipino Time a bad rep.

In-flight Service
Finally this is where Cebu Pacific redeems itself. The aircraft looks new, smells new and is spacious enough for me (TIP: ask for aisle seats up front!). The flight was safe and uneventful but I hope that in the future they'd figure out a way to seat families with young children up front (like how Tiger does it) so that they can have an easier time boarding/departing. Bonus pawikan points because:
  • They're the only airline i've ever flown that has an in-flight "bring-me" game. (Try playing the game at 2:00am when the flight has been delayed for about an hour.)
  • They're also the only budget airline I've flown that provides a free iced-tea beverage!
  • Plus, the female flight attendants' 60s inspired uniforms are very chic.
Conclusion
Two and a half pawikan points. The whole check-in and being tardy thing is a big bummer for me.

But would I fly with them again?

I definitely would. My only reason is that their convenient evening schedule lets me travel without losing a day of work. They've got a lot of potential to be my preferred airline if they sort out their issues. But for now i'll just have to grit my teeth, bring a good book and get to the airport a little earlier.

***
If you liked this review, you might also want to read my review of Jetstar Asia and my review of Tiger Airways.
You might also want to check out whatsikat.com which is updated twice an hour with reviews from other Pinoy bloggers, celebrity bloggers, chismis and news.

15 comments:

Tin (ni Johann) said...

Hi!

I found your blog through Jing's (New Age Pirate) --

I really enjoy reading your reviews. May I link you? Thanks!

- Tin CC-Ong

Anonymous said...

"...(According to the ground staff at the counter, the weighing scales at the check-in counters were not accurate enough. WTF!)..."

reply naman sa akin ng ground crew: "sira po yung weighing scale dito checkin counter..." hehehe..

siguro, that's to differentiate CP from the other international flights na mas mahal ang bayad... hehehe...

Anonymous said...

hi! i just chanced upon ur blog and i find very useful and interesting. :)

quick question, regarding the refund for a cancelled flight, is cebu pacific doing something about it? i just had my flight cancelled and as i read thru different forums, its takes forever to get the refund. maybe ur cousin can shed some light on this issue. :)

thanks!

-now your avid reader-

p said...

Hello "new avid reader"-- I'm glad you find the stuff on reviewsbyp interesting.

Regarding the refund, my cousin can't explain it either. The system works in theory but doesn't do too well in practice.

Do you think Cebu Pacific is just hoping that we get frustrated and give up? 'wag naman sana!

p said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi, Baka naman puede pong patulong sa pinsan mo. I've been trying to follow up for my refund. It's been four months now and I haven't gotten any response. They just keep on telling me that they're following it up and it's really frustrating. The worst part is I'm calling them overseas.

Thanks --Joanne

oliboy said...

http://oliboycastro.blogspot.com/2008/08/my-cebu-pacific-story.html

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I've read your blog and experience the same problem with Cebu Pacific. I have refunded my 2 tickets and it does not appear on my billing statement. baka pwede po na patulong sa cousin mo. Thanks!

Richelle

binx17 said...

I too got bitten by the Cebu Pacific refund issue. I cancelled my flt 'round Oct 2008 - and N-calls and N number of emails since then, wala pa ring refund. Their standard reply seem to be: Sir, nag-email o tinawagan na po namin yung Accounting office namin. Update po namin kayo. After that, hintay uli, and the same thing happens all over. Really, totally frustrating...

albert said...

buti ka pa 4mos lang.eh ako 11mos na wla parin yung refund ko! ano ba to?pinapa-roll pa ni gokongwei yung mga funds natin?!grabe naman sila.pati pag-contact sa customer service nila paiyakan sa tagal! tapos oftentimes kahit 30mins kana naghihintay idodrop pa ang call mo!ano ba yun?!

Aishah said...

sorry wrong info, my husband started working on 16/02/09, not 11/02/09. thanks.

Aishah said...

Just want to share my terrible experience. I went to Manila from Kuala Lumpur with my husband (we're newly-wed) and another six friends by Cebu Pacific. At first, everything went well even until we board the plane. One of the cabin crew even offered help to my husband to keep his guitar in the compartment. Just few minutes from departure, a stewardess came to us and ask my husband, "Sir, do you have chicken pox?". My husband answered that he has recovered. Then she asked him for a medical certificate to confirm that he is fit to board the plane. FYI, my husband got chicken pox on 10/02/09 and we board that plane on 04/03/09. My husband has started working on 11/02/09 because he has recovered. So how are we supposed to know that he needed another medical cert onboard just to prove so? All that left on his face was the scar! We even went to Singapore on 26/02/09, and he was not even stopped by the Singaporean strict immigration because you can barely see his scars! My husband was later forced to take his belongings without even given the chance to discuss with me on what to do next. I however was allowed to stay, and I cried all the way to Manila. The cabin crews were too stupid and heartless since they didn’t even have the courtesy to say sorry and calm me down!! My friends asked them to explain what will happen to my husband, what are the options that we have but they just remained silence. We were shocked, upset and were totally disgraced because they treated us unprofessionally and with no respect at all. FYI, as soon as he went off the plane, the pilot impatiently announced that the flight will take off soon. What if I was traveling alone? What if I kept his passport in my handbag and forgot to pass it to him before he went off? What if it was the other way around? If they can't differentiate scars, leave that part to the experts! Don’t try to be smart and funny by sending my husband off the plane and waste our money just because my husband asked for a replacement ticket! Yes, my husband was asked to pay another RM800.00 just for the one-way ticket exchange matters, when previously we only have to pay RM875.00 per head for two-ways ticket! Why would we board on a low cost carrier if we have extra cash to spend unnecessarily? My husband even had to pay for another RM50.00 to get a bloody useless medical certificate right after he got down from the plane, and the result was, HE WAS 100% FIT TO BOARD THE PLANE AT THAT PARTICULAR DATE!! We are not that stubborn to board the plane and jeopardize other passengers if he was still sick!! The next two days, he boarded another Cebu Pacific plane to join us, and he successfully landed to Manila and later went back to Kuala Lumpur with us, and no one even noticed his scars and no one asked for any medical certificate.

Is that a low cost carrier thing? I mean by providing such lousy cabin crews and wasting passengers' money unnecessarily? I have sent tones of complaint via their so called Guest Feedback Form 2 weeks ago; they said they will take 7 days to work everything out, but until now, no respond at all. From what I read here, it will take 4 months for them to revert back to you? That’s ridiculously a low cost thing I guess. As you can see, they come in package. Cebu Pacific sucks, they made my husband’s first experience onboard a total nightmare, they made my honeymoon a total nightmare. Thank you Cebu Pacific, I hope your sexy ass cabin crews suffer from chicken pox (or even HIV), and your scar will never heal. Godbless.

Alessandro Di Marco said...

Cebu Pacific is run by thieves.
They overbook their flights incredibly and they send home everyone else without flying and without their money (with all kind of different excuses).

Want to play roulette book with them. Otherwise especially for long weekends and your deserve holidays use a proper airline.

This is just a scam.

I had a Confirmed ticket Singapore - Manila - Cebu and they sold it to someone else.

It can happen to you and you will lose hotel, visa ticket etc.

Then you'll remember about this message (or you will find it later) angry like me.

Avoid this airline at all costs.

Anonymous said...

Experienced UNAUTHORIZED CANCELLATION OF BOOKING for THREE freaking times!!!!

I booked a roundway ticket for Manila-Saigon-Manila last April 2010 so I could avail the special promo. I got the confirmation receipt and felt very excited. After a week, May 2, I got another itinerary receipt stating that I cancelled my Manila-Saigon flight, leaving me with my Saigon-Manila flight. It was a long useless argument with a customer agent. So i decided to purchase another ticket (have to pay higher for the fare). On May 18, I received an email again stating that I cancelled what I booked on May 2. I got very upset. I realized its costing me lots of money. I was able to reach the guest service manager and settle it through giving my ticket back plus a travel fund valid within 90days. And so I thought everything is ok... until yesterday, I received a phone call informing me that I cancelled my Saigon-Manila booking. haaaaaaaaaaaayy... this is really crazy!!!! they even insisted that maybe someone has an access on my email. But if that's the case, then why is my other booking (like hotel booking etc) NOT troubled?
And why notify me three weeks before my tour? and a month past after the cancellation has been done?
haaayyy..

anyone here with the same experience???

Anonymous said...

I just flew Cebu Pacific from Manila-Singapore-Manila. Late both flights, but counter staff said it was on time. Fees for everything. I am not sure I will do it again if I can avoid it.