When you’re new to booking flights at Cebu Pacific, the Philippines’ largest carrier having the most number of destinations, you ought to be aware of the opt-in fees that comes with default booking procedure.
After a few user experience upgrades, booking at www.cebupacificair.com has become more convenient and more user-friendly, thanks to improved speed, better page layout, and even choice of typefaces.
However, Cebu Pacific is not necessarily the same old Cebu Pacific Air which touted low-fare airline with better on-time flight schedules that rival Philippine Airlines (some of us can remember that on-time performance badge that appears on its web pages, taking pride of the 80% or better on-time departures). While we cannot blame the carrier for the delay woes tarnishing its reputation — congestion at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport in desperate need of expansion upgrade and rising tourism numbers that boosted airlines to increase flight frequencies or expand their network of destinations — it is partly responsible for mechanical problems or pilot errors stranding airplanes or overshooting them on the runway, and flaws within its system.
Delays during December 2014 has led to Cebu Pacific fine of P52 million.
Now, let’s talk about fees when booking online. In the past, Cebu Pacific has been proud to be associated with low-fare seats to boost its patronage and take a slice of the bulk of domestic travel market. But the carrier has been changing its image a bit, removing elements that link to its low-fare identity in the past, though not completely. A not so subtle approach was to charge passengers extra for luggage, seats, meals and other facilities traditionally granted for free.
While Philippine Airlines has generously offered 30 kilogram baggage allowance to international passengers, Cebu Pacific charges about $30 for the same luggage weight. Considering meals served in both PAL and Cebu Pacific as equal, passengers who wish to eat during flight will have to pay about $6 extra for a chicken tocino meal.
Cebu Pacific breakfast meals option.
So if you’re a no-frills traveler — someone who doesn’t bother bringing check-in luggage, prefers to take meals before or after the flight, and doesn’t mind sitting in the aisle, middle-seat or window side not to mention the cramped seats — Cebu Pacific will be a choice airline for you.
But going online, there are a few things that the airline will assume you’ll be willing to pay, and therefore set the default as “yes I am willing to pay for them”.
1) Travel Insurance
Purchasing travel insurance is like buying yourself peace of mind, knowing that when things go wrong such as luggage is lost or damaged, flight delayed or you were involved in an accident, you are covered with compensation. But not all travel insurance are made equal. A common gripe among passengers is that some travel insurance terms and conditions hide certain conditions that disqualify an insurance policy holder from making claims, and these conditions always come in a fine-print that very few passengers ever care reading.
By default, travel insurance is included in a Cebu Pacific online booking. Not that it’s required, but it’s good to have. But during an airline booking procedure a passenger doesn’t have enough time to review its terms — Cebu Pacific has set a time limit for booking sessions. So booking travel insurance without knowing its terms is like buying a product without knowing if it’s what you are looking for but just because a salesman makes a hard sell.
Make no mistake, we still recommend you getting a travel insurance. For example, the credit card you use when booking your Cebu Pacific ticket may offer complimentary travel insurance (kindly check), or you can purchase it separately and have enough time to review its terms. So if you have other options, you can simply click on the tab “cebtravelsure” and click on “No insurance”.
Booking for seats does not give you enough advantage as you’re not sitting on premium upgrade seats such as those in exit rows that offer more legroom (but flight attendants ask you to read the safety instruction card so you can manage to help out in times of emergency). By default Cebu Pacific pre-selects a seat for you across all sectors (if you have connecting flights). The problem with these seats is that they’re entirely normal seat buried in the economy class section. You can still get the same seat when you show up at check-in counter without getting charged.
In the example below, a pre-selected seat at 26C is nothing special yet a passenger gets charged HK$60 (US$7.67) online by default.
Under the bill of rights of passengers, all confirmed bookings deserve a seat so you don’t have to worry about not getting a seat when you check-in. So this feature is simply a money-making enterprise that charge some passengers who are not aware when making their bookings online.
There are some exemptions though, for example you are traveling with babies or persons with disabilities that require special location or a big group of people who wish to be seated together. But for the most part, getting charged for ordinary airline seats is just a bad practice.
To cancel the pre-selected seat, and avoid getting charged, click on the encircled text “No seat selections”.
Cebu Pacific does not serve meal options in some flights such as those booked one day before the flight. But in general, the carrier does not pre-select food menu for passengers to opt-out just like insurance and seats as described above.
By default, Cebu Pacific assumes travelers to get on board its flights without luggage for check in. That means passengers can simply add the desired luggage capacity (15kg, 20kg, 30kg, 40kg) based on what they’ll bring with them. So make sure that if you don’t select any add-on baggage with you, you live with that commitment. You can still purchase it online at least a day before your flight, but if you bring heavier luggage and charged for extra, that’s likely more costly for you.
5. Sports equipment
Bulky items such as oversized musical instruments, sports equipment and the like are also charged extra by airlines, notably Cebu Pacific. But like meals and luggage options, they are not charged by default unless you declare them.
6. Worldwide Fund for Nature
Airlines often partner with charity institutions to promote goodwill and lift up their reputation. One example is Cathay Pacific’s Change for Good that collects spare change from passengers to be donated for UNICEF’s fund raising efforts. Cebu Pacific chose to partner with WWF which is a good choice. However, it might not be the best opportunity to seek donation during a booking process when passengers try to book flights the cheapest possible way. Sure, there are those who are willing to make a donation so it’s still a worthy thing to do.
We can only wish Cebu Pacific makes it more transparent how the donation was calculated, and what programs WWF does to fight against global warming and climate change. A link to another page with elaborate explanation helps encourage more donations.
Booking at Cebu Pacific is a seamless process, if not without these extra pit stops such as opting out of fees for seats and insurance. For budget-conscious travelers, we hope this helps you save a little more, if you are not yet aware of these “hidden charges.”