Philippines' Cebu Pacific Air launches direct cheap flights from Melbourne to Manila

The 7,641 islands, turquoise seas and glittering coastlines of the Philippines come within easy reach of Melburnians when Filipino low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific launches its direct Melbourne-Manila service on August 14.

Fares to the Philippines' capital cost from $290 one way including taxes, although the airline says travellers will be able to snap up sales fares from as low as $150. "Don't splurge on the airfare, splurge on the experiences in the Philippines," said Alex Reyes, Vice President for Cargo at Cebu Pacific, launching the route in Melbourne yesterday.

In a country where a beer or a coconut juice costs $1, that's a lot of splurging.

Cebu Pacific says that its successful Sydney-Manila route, launched in 2014, boosted its decision to expand to Melbourne, and it's already looking further afield to Perth to become its third Australian destination.

Reyes says the airline started with a small fleet of DC9s in 1996, but in 2018, its fleet of 67 aircraft is one of the world's youngest. It currently has 40 new aircraft on order including 32 fuel-efficient Airbus A321neo planes, which will allow it to service longer routes. Reyes said a Perth-Manila service is under review, and it's looking as far afield as India.

The low-cost carrier flies to 27 international destinations across Asia including Seoul and Tokyo, and from Manila onward to 37 domestic locations including the popular tourist haunts of Cebu and Palawan as well as the upcoming surf destination, Siargao. It also has regular flights to the Philippines' star destination, Boracay, which reopens for tourism on October 26 following a crackdown on illegal construction and waste management, which threatened its renowned pristine waters.  

The Melbourne-Manila service will operate three times a week, departing Melbourne at 5.05pm to arrive at 11.15pm. The return service sees flights departing Manila at 6.05am, arriving in Melbourne at 3.50pm.

The airline already flies from Sydney to Manila five times a week.

Its rival on the route is national carrier Philippines Airlines, a full-service airline with premium economy and business class sections.

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See also: Asia's most overlooked paradise

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