December 14, 2008

Leaving Boracay – and Cebu Pacific Airlines

After a few beautiful days in Boracay, it was unfortunately time for us to leave. Our time on the island was wonderful, relaxing, and perfect. But, I was looking forward to returning to Hong Kong for a few days and then heading home!

Our original departure flight was in the early afternoon, but after the ticket reservation issue with Cebu Pacific mentioned in my earlier post, our flight was moved earlier. And I mean earlier – to before 8:00am!

Let me take a few moments to vent about Cebu Pacific. (If you would prefer to skip this rant, please pass over the three next paragraphs.)

Now, I know the airline industry is not perfect – I worked for a major US air carrier for over eight years. That said, some airlines are better than others. In addition, I understand airlines are not in business to make me happy – they are in business, in part, to get their airplanes and payload to the destination safely. But, more importantly, airlines are in business to make money. From our first experience with Cebu Pacific not one flight went smoothly.

The first time we checked in with the airline – for our Hong Kong to Manila flight – our checked baggage was a few kilos over the baggage limit. So, we had the option of paying a excess baggage fee or taking some things out of our checked luggage. We opted for the later. We went and bought some cheap duffle bags and moved some of our clothes from our suitcases to the duffle bags and carried them on board the flight. I did not think much of it at the time. Then we had the problem when we checked in for our Manila to Caticlan flight. As a result of this issue, we arrived in Boracay about two hours late and the airline moved our departure from Caticlan from early afternoon until late in the morning. (At this point I was completely annoyed with this airline.) When we arrived at the Caticlan airport our checked baggage was again over the limit (even though we had left things in Manila). This time we were told the only option was to pay the excess baggage fee. But, my issues with the airline did not end here! In Manila we after retrieved the luggage we had left behind there with Jonathan's sister. We then checked in for our last flight on Cebu Pacific – Manila to Hong Kong – and, of course, our baggage was again over the limit again. Again we opted to remove items and hand carry them; but it seemed that no matter how much we removed the bags were still overweight! We ended up carrying all our clothing on the airplane and checking our suitcases containing only our toiletries and a few items Jonathan's sister asked us to bring back to the states for my in-laws. Basically, we checked four almost empty bags. And the bags were still a few kilos over the limit causing us to pay another small excess baggage fee. The only things in out checked bags were items that are not permitted to be carried in the passenger cabin. It was ridiculous. Then our flight ended up being delayed almost two hours and we missed our dinner plans in Hong Kong. Overall, our experience flying this airline was frustrating, to say the least.

Cebu Pacific Airlines offers low fares – but that is not how the airline makes money. The airline has very low baggage limits (lower than most other airlines) causing many passengers to have to pay excess fees at check-in. The airline charges for everything onboard the airplane – even water. The issue with their reservation website is just unacceptable – to charge a passenger for a ticket and then claim that it is not confirmed and therefore will not be honored is preposterous. I will not take Cebu Pacific Airlines again, regardless of the price or schedule advantages. But, enough about that.

After eleven days we were back in Hong Kong. This time the bustle of the streets seemed more familiar and less overwhelming. After our time in Manila the traffic and crowds here seemed more orderly to me. In a way, it seemed like we were part way home.

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