Airline review: Cebu Pacific economy, Melbourne to Manila

THE PLANE

Airbus A330, of which there are eight in Cebu Pacific's fleet of 66 aircraft.

THE ROUTE

Cebu Pacific's inaugural flight from Melbourne to Manila. This low-cost airline only entered the Australian market in 2014 when it launched its Sydney to Manila route.   

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

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CLASS

Economy, as is everyone on the plane. Seat choice is an add-on for $17, $35 or $70. I'm in 2D on the aisle of the centre block of seats.

DURATION

Seven hours and 35 minutes.

FREQUENCY

Cebu Pacific flies Melbourne to Manila every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday leaving Australia early evening.

THE SEAT

Seats are 45.2 inches (115cm) high by 16.8 inches (42.5cm) wide with a pitch of 30-31 degrees. There are 436 seats across 54 rows with a 3-3-3 configuration until rows 47 to 53 where it's 2-3-2 then row 54 is just the middle three seats. 

BAGGAGE

Standard fares include 7kg carry-on. A fly + baggage bundle, which can cost more than $50 extra, includes 20kg of check-in baggage.  

COMFORT

The cabin temperature was on the cool side for the whole flight so come prepared or pay about $9 for blanket hire. On the aisle my broadish shoulders do get bumped more than usual. Lights stay up for the duration of the flight. 

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ENTERTAINMENT

BYO or read inflight mag, Smile, extremely slowly. No charging ports.

SERVICE

The stereotype that all Filipino people have an innate gift for hospitality is fully supported on this flight. The cabin crew – one woman is actually named Lovely – are attentive and upbeat all the way to Manila. When the lights are dimmed for take-off in Melbourne crew pass though the cabin asking everyone who's reading if they'd like their individual light turned on. Early in the flight there's a quiz and bag tags given away to winners. It's a good atmosphere on board. 

FOOD

Meals need to be pre-ordered and we had been given a choice of 14 Filipino-style dishes such as ube langka croissant, fish escabeche and chicken inasal burrito. My beef kare-kare isn't super tasty but it's fine. The volume of food is less than most international economy inflight meals but snacks can be purchased and tea or instant coffee are a dollar or two. At any time during the flight you can go to the galley for a cup of water. A couple of hours before landing the cart comes around again with a limited choice of snacks available. Payment is cash-only in Philippine piso, US dollars and, because it's the origin or destination of this flight, Australian dollars. 

ONE MORE THING

Cebu Pacific has recently replaced plastic spoons, forks, stirrers and cups with sustainable alternatives on all its domestic and international flights.

THE VERDICT

If you're not fussed where you sit, can travel light and carry some extra snacks then this low-cost carrier now provides a very competitively priced and comfortable enough way to visit the Philippines for a holiday or to re-connect with family.

OUR RATING

★★★★

Elspeth Callender travelled as a guest of Cebu Pacific (cebupacificair.com) and the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines.

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