Friday, March 29, 2013

Budget Airlines - A boon to Filipino travelers

Many years back, a middle-class Filipino family would find it prohibitive to travel even to nearby Hong Kong due to exorbitant cost of plane tickets; air travel used to be the within the sphere of the rich and elite Filipinos.

Nowadays, many budget airlines have sprouted. They even offer big discount if you'll book your flight months ahead. However, you need to be prepared for no-frills service which means no complimentary snacks and drinks but you can buy them in-flight. Be prepared as well to bring your own gadgets since you have to entertain yourself during the entire flight; there is no audio/video facilities. Well, for around 2 hours flight, it is not a big deal actually. Passengers are allowed to bring packed lunch or drinks (except Air Asia), Ipads and android tablets. In my case, I used my Walkman with noise cancelling while indulging a can of beer bought in-flight.

I remember a couple of years back, when travel ban to Yemen was imposed due to so-called "Arab Spring," my eldest and I went to Hong Kong so I would be able to leave Philippines. We hurriedly booked our ticket at PAL and paid a whopping 19k pesos for round-trip tickets for both of us. Quiet pricey but my company reimbursed all our expenses including Disney tickets. It was great, all Dads love freebies!

Moving ahead, in December 2011, my family (wife & 3 kids) visited me in Hong Kong to celebrate Christmas with me since I can't spend my vacation in Philippines due to lingering travel ban to Yemen. Due to lack of preparation, they paid 48k pesos to Cebu Pacific. This time I paid all their expenses from my own pocket. Anyhow, that was one of our best Christmases.

Few days back, my eldest graduated college and placed no 7 in the Marketing Professional examination board. As our gift to him, my wife and I planned a family trip again to Hong Kong with side trip to Macau and China. This time we did the preparation as early as 6 months back and booked SEAIR or Tiger airways from Clark. We were fortunate because they were having a Hong Kong promo at that time. We paid 20k + pesos for 5 people round-trip with checked-in luggage of 50 kg both ways since aside from bringing tons of snacks to Hong Kong we were planning to search for ladies clothes for our online shop too. Wife and I were elated because of huge savings. More saving means additional budget for shopping, she said. My excitement was short lived :-(

20,645 pesos for 5 people - round trip to HKG & MLA

However, few days back, I received a flight notice from Tiger Airways. Due to network review, their flight back to Clark (DMIA) was moved the following day. Hence, instead of spending 4 nights in Hong Kong, we will stay there for 5 nights. It means additional 1 night hotel, transport, food, Park N Fly, etc. While family is rejoicing, surely, all Dads would fret about this change of plan.

Our Hong Kong plane fare was cheaper than our usual Bangkok plane fares which range from 12k to 14k pesos round-trip for 2 person though I must admit that Bangkok was a bit farther than Hong Kong.

In all our flights using different budget airlines, to minimize the fare, we never avail any of their extra services such as:
- seat selector
- in-flight meals
- first to board
- sports equipment fee

Trust me, you don't need these extra services. I just hope that we will never encounter a cancelled flight with budget airlines since I am sure we won't have any choice but to sleep at the airport.