How To Book Cheap Flights in the Philippines

How To Book Cheap Flights in the Philippines

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Travel can be cheap. For the first of the two-part article on how to travel more for less, I’m sharing some pointers before and after booking plane tickets. Travel by air takes the lion share from the expenses pie. So getting it done in cheaper-than-cheap price is already half the battle.

Daig ng matiyaga at maagap ang mayaman. And with these life hacks below, you don’t need to burn too much money when scoring flight tickets in the Philippines.

1. Install the following mobile apps immediately.

Airlines Promo

Airlines Promo is a good and up-to-date alert app that notifies real time ongoing promos. It works like a charm. Your smartphone, assumed to be always connected with the Internet, will receive a notification with the brief description of the sale. It leads me to the front queue of the usual painful online seat sale.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is a precise (not necessarily accurate) price comparison of the airline tickets. I normally use this with the former app to verify the savings that I would get from the sale. You can compare flights from hundreds of airlines, local and international, in minutes with the ability to fine tune your search.

2. You should book a ticket now for future travel.

One More Chance

Popular “Book a flight and travel now” quote has a caveat. Popoy of One More Chance has been constantly reminding us in Cinema One reruns about the 3-month rule. In the airline settings in the Philippines, the best time to book is during the piso fare for a planned trip 6 months to 12 months later.

See my booking history. Warning: it is a long list. Nevertheless, hope you’ll find this interesting and helpful as reference. Did I forget to mention that I am a piso sale freak?

Click Here To See My Booking History

Destination Booking Date Flight Date Base Fare Total Fare Book Today* Notes
Kuala Lumpur to Manila Nov 11 ’11 Sep 06 ’12 1.10 140.19 292.47 [1] MYR
Manila to Singapore Nov 11 ’11 Aug 28 ’12 11.00 1,583.75 3,996.68 [1]
Manila to Cebu (RT) Feb 13 ’12 Jun 23 ’12 2.86 1,905.20 3,888.12 [1]
Manila to Hong Kong Sep 12 ’12 Jan 31 ’13 888.00 2,317.25 3,155.33 [1]
Hong Kong to Clark Sep 12 ’12 Feb 03 ’13 218.00 674.03 456.00 [1] HKD
Manila to Tagbilaran (RT) Sep 16 ’12 Jul 06 ’13 2.00 1,225.64 3,238.56 [2]
Manila to Davao Sep 17 ’12 Feb 28 ’13 1.00 1,123.12 2,068.16 [3]
Cagayan de Oro to Manila Sep 17 ’12 Mar 04 ’13 1.00 939.92 2,409.56 [3]
Davao to Cagayan de Oro Sep 17 ’12 Mar 03 ’13 1.00 465.92 1,468.76 [3]
Manila to Iloilo Oct 31 ’12 Oct 17 ’13 1.00 761.12 1,866.56 [3]
Manila to Kuala Lumpur Oct 19 ’12 Apr 06 ’13 10.00 PH 1,502.50 2,256.53 [4]
Singapore to Manila Oct 19 ’12 Apr 09 ’13 10.00 87.17 152.96 [4] SGD
Manila to Incheon (RT) Oct 19 ’12 Aug 09 ’13 20.00 5,542.55 18,777.67 [3]
Manila to Legazpi (RT) Nov 10 ’12 Sep 19 ’13 14.00 2,013.48 5,271.96 [1]
Manila to Cagayan de Oro (RT) Dec 12 ’12 Jun 14 ’13 24.24 1,587.94 4,989.72 [3]
Manila to Cebu (RT) Dec 12 ’12 Jul 19 ’13 24.24 1,363.94 3,888.12 [3]
Manila to Hong Kong (RT) Dec 15 ’12 Dec 17 ’12 9,098.00 12,562.41 15,560.49 [5]
Manila to Dipolog (RT) Dec 24 ’12 May 02 ’13 1,999.00 3,967.68 6,132.12 [3]
Tuguegarao to Manila Jan 01 ’13 Jun 10 ’13 20.13 599.35 1,815.96 [3]
Manila to Iloilo (RT) Jan 22 ’13 Jun 28 ’13 20.00 1,357.40 3,533.72 [3]
Manila to Dubai Jan 25 ’13 Dec 26 ’13 1,888.00 7,404.00 11,083.22 [3]
Bacolod to Manila Jan 29 ’13 Oct 21 ’13 988.00 1,681.56 1,815.96 [6]
Incheon to Manila Feb 15 ’13 Aug 15 ’13 10,000.00 107,000.00 189,000.00 [1] KRW
Manila to Kalibo Feb 25 ’13 Aug 31 ’13 25.00 788.00 2,056.96 [3]
Manila to Taipei (RT) Mar 07 ’13 Jan 29 ’14 2.00 2,241.53 7,854.28 [7]
Manila to Coron (RT) Mar 07 ’13 Mar 01 ’14 2.00 1,113.24 5,383.96
Manila to Kalibo Mar 07 ’13 Jan 18 ’14 1.00 649.12 1,229.28 [8]
Manila to Kota Kinabalu (RT) May 01 ’13 Nov 08 ’13 200.00 2,082.22 4,412.26
Manila to Iloilo (RT) Jun 10 ’13 Sep 26 ’13 0.00 485.60 3,533.72 [9]
Manila to Butuan (RT) Jun 12 ’13 Dec 07 ’13 2.00 1,382.04 4,026.52
Manila to Iloilo (RT) Jun 21 ’13 Sep 26 ’13 398.00 1,601.56 3,533.72
Manila to Hanoi Jul 12 ’13 Apr 05 ’14 1.00 1,426.00 5,230.41
Phuket to Manila Jul 12 ’13 Apr 23 ’14 1.00 2,856.59 6,619.28 THB
Manila to Jakarta (RT) Aug 26 ’13 Aug 22 ’14 1.00 2,402.40 17,189.16
Bali to Manila Oct 31 ’13 Aug 26 ’14 3.00 73.00 179.00 USD
Manila to Singapore (RT) Oct 31 ’13 Sep 18 ’14 6.00 3,416.16 9,187.26 [10]
Manila to Kalibo (RT) Nov 10 ’13 Jan 24 ’14 400.00 1,605.60 2,903.68 [11]
Manila to Jakarta Dec 31 ’13 Aug 20 ’14 20.14 1,233.62 6,638.08
Manila to Kalibo Mar 07 ’13 Jan 17 ’14 1.00 649.12 1,821.76 [8]
Manila to Iloilo (RT) Mar 10 ’13 Oct 17 ’14 176.00 1,309 2,631.00 [12]
Manila to Dumaguete (RT) Jan 17 ’14 Jul 05 ’14 376.00 1,533.00 3,101.00 [13]
Iloilo to Manila Feb 17 ’14 March 14 ’14 399.00 1,044.28 1,356.76
Kalibo to Manila Apr 15 ’14 May 06 ’14 2,099.00 3,149.88 3,597.88 [14]
Cebu to Siargao (RT) Jul 04 ’14 Jan 31 ’15 2.00 1,537.04 4,129.84
Manila to Cebu (RT) Jul 04 ’14 Jan 30 ’15 2.00 1,582.04 3,036.92
Manila to Cebu; Tagbilaran to Manila Jul 15 ’14 Jan 17 ’15 1,450.00 3,003.80 5,338.04 [15]
Puerto Princesa to Manila Jul 25 ’14 Dec 31 ’14 1.00 598.52 2,724.28
Manila to Coron (RT) Jul 25 ’14 Nov 28 ’14 2.00 1,382.04 4,655.96
Legazpi to Manila Jul 25 ’14 Nov 18 ’14 1.00 542.52 1,390.36
Cebu to Manila Aug 04 ’14 Oct 13 ’14 1.00 798.52 1,968.76
Manila to Cebu Aug 04 ’14 Oct 10 ’14 6.00 822.72 1,094.88 [16]

* The price column if the plane ticket with the same day of flight is booked today for 2015. Unless stated in the Notes column, all of the flights here are from Cebu Pacific.

Notes:
[1] with baggage + seat selector
[2] Zest Air
[3] seat selector
[4] Araw ng Kagitingan, with baggage + seat selector
[5] not a seat sale
[6] Masskara Festival, with seat selector
[7] Chinese New Year
[8] Ati-atihan Festival
[9] Tiger Airways
[10] F1 Race
[11] Air Asia, Dinagyang Festival
[12] PAL Express, Masskara Festival
[13] PAL Express
[14] Laboracay
[15] Sinulog Festival
[16] AirAsia, meal

3. Take note of these special days:

Animo La Sale

Philippine holidays. There will always be an Independence Day or an Araw ng Kagitingan seat sale for September travel dates. All Souls Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day for the rainy seasons next year.
Numerical Days such as repeated digits like 11/11/11, 12/12/12. Expect a PhP 20.15 seat sale soon.
UAAP Championships. For recent years, Cebu Pacific keeps on riding on the popularity of the basketball league. Although you’ll not get a cheaper ticket compared during piso sale, it will give you some savings still.

NU ang Pulutan

4. Yellow follows Red and Blue.

This has been proven. You’ll also notice this after you install the Airlines Promo app. Like a competitive suitor, Cebu Pacific always release a seat sale hours later when the rival PAL Express and Air Asia Philippines launch their respective promos to woo potential customers.

5. Usually, Air Asia Philippines promo goes with its parent Air Asia in Malaysia.

The good thing about simultaneous sales is Malaysia is a cheaper gate to other Asian countries such as Myanmar, India, Nepal, Indonesia archipelago and Maldives wherein direct flights from the Philippines are not yet established. So the next time you’re alerted with an AirAsia Philippines sale, be ready to plot your DIY connecting flights too in Malaysia.

6. PAL Express is the most silent in terms of publicizing their promos.

Yet the promos are definitely cheap flights steals. Aside from their weekly Monday Madness, be vigilant about their one-way ticket seat sales. Basco seats disappear in a snap.

7. Booking over the web is one battle. Travel expos and exhibits are another.

Travel Expo

Travel Expositions happen at least twice a year. But recently, PAL Express is the only airline among the others worth the queue. Why? Their promo is different from what are published online. Compare the prices in the expo and in the website to know if queueing for half-day is a better decision. Pro-tip: Basco tickets courtesy of PAL Express are rare. So you need to be in the line first hour of the first day.

8. Seat sales, both online and offline, are designed for solo backpackers and couples.

Parang pag-ibig. Either single or couple lang. Threesome tends to be more problematic. So don’t expect much for a treat for three for the same flight number. Discounted tickets per flight are limited. Heard this from a grapevine that they only release at most 5 cheap seats per flight.

9. Know your geography.

When you court someone, most likely you also befriend the closest friends of that person. This holds true with booking flights. Use your knowledge in geography as an advantage in booking multicity flights such as Visayan or Indochina trips.

Take Cebu’s Sinulog as an example. Airlines will block the third weekend of January and will offer year-round skyrocketing prices due to demand. But your wisdom should tell you to take the trips to and from the next nearest airports in Tagbiliran, Bohol or in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. The incremental cost of taking a bus or ferry is cheaper.

This goes with cross-country adventures. Carefully plan your entry and exit points. To name some few twin trips: Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, Jakarta and Bali. And the permutations of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

10. Know the difference between direct flights and non-stop flights, and a stopover versus a layover.

AirAsia

Direct with stop/s flights are not included in promo sales. Let’s take the Manila – Siargao case for Cebu Pacific with Cebu as stopover. The trick is to book two pairs of segments (two different flight numbers): Manila-Cebu and Cebu-Siargao. The obvious drawback is to pray a lot during the sale to get both pairs.

Another example is Cebu Pacific’s Manila – Male with Singapore as a stopover. The cost of this published route is expensive than taking Air Asia’s Manila to Singapore or Manila to Kuala Lumpur then from layover to Male.

11. Booking two one-way tickets on different occasions is also strategic.

For some instances, I booked two one-way tickets (inbound and outbound, of course) from separate seat sales even of different airlines. Discounts, like love, come to those who patiently wait. If your desired travel date is less than 3 months, Popoy’s constant number, from now, there’s a less, if none, chance that Cebu Pacific will release a seat sale for that period. However, AirAsia gives One More Chance with their last-minute, dubbed as you-don’t-have-to-wait-and-travel-now, promos.

12. Cebu Pacific does not show all-in expenses and fees as you book.

And the default check means you always buy their services. It was my mistake during my first year of travel. I did not know that I can uncheck the seat selector to avoid fees. Facepalm. With the exception of traveling from or to Legazpi because of the Mayon Volcano, I didn’t mind now any seating arrangement as long as I’ll be sitting next to a cute. I like how destiny will play its game on me.

13. No one can predict the weather.
Should I take the ticket with price cut like by knife?
Oh yes! oh yes!
Cause you’re good to go!
You say I need not to worry ’bout rains till the day I fly
Trust luck my friend and my answer’s still ‘Go’!

I am often asked about booking flights during rainy seasons (the off-peak in the Philippines). And I always answer wholeheartedly – take that flight. When typhoon becomes a threat to your vacation, the airline will eventually cancel it for safety. Your tickets are rebookable in this case. If you worry about your accommodation, you should have booked it via booking.com or any website that allows pay later schemes. More of this on the next article, a part two on tips on cheap travel.

14. Know your rights as a consumer.

Delayed Flight

Instead of being a hardheaded when a flight is cancelled or indefinitely delayed, be a wiser consumer. Two things to get away from this mess. A delayed flight at least 6 hours after the original departure is considered cancelled. First option is to ask for a new ticket on a date at your convenience. Treat that as an upgrade to your promo ticket. You can use the former even during the peak season! Or secondly, ask the counter receptionist (flirt if you will) to book you to the nearest airport. They will pay for your transfer (meaning free) because that’s the law.

15. Pilot and flight attendant buddy passes are like waiting for someone to love you back.

In case you get a buddy pass from a pilot or from cabin crew, understand the terms and conditions carefully. These passes are not guaranteed. Sometimes you need to validate your pass some months before the flight. You are a chance passenger on the day of your flight.

16. Airlines are overbooking or overselling.

Volunteer as Tribute

Overbooking means that airlines accept few additional reservations for seats on a flight even beyond the aircraft’s seating capacity. This could work with or work against you. Booking popular flights such as return on Monday mornings or departures on Friday afternoon, popular routes but with limited planes flying to and from, holiday seasons could lead you being bumped.

If you’re traveling with flexibility, to be bumped voluntarily gets you some rewards such as cash and/or air vouchers and/or accommodations. If you’re in the working class or holding the buddy pass, you don’t want to get bumped.

17. Glitches are manna from heaven.

Boarding Pass to Maldives

I got round trip tickets to Maldives and to Nepal for just a price of an artisanal coffee. I even got a free one-way ticket to Bangkok. They are considered sold and valid if the system or process failed somewhere without forced attack from the outside. One example of glitch is the foreign exchange conversion such that instead of multiplying the ratio of Malaysian ringgit to Philippine peso, the page divided it. No one hacked the system. I guess it was the fault of the programmer or the encoder that day.

18. Tinker your Facebook and Twitter settings.

A good backup plan for tip #1 is to follow the social media accounts of these airlines and get notified whenever they post an update. That’s what smartphones are for.

19. No need to print your confirmation pages.

Electronic copies are and should be accepted in the checkin counter. It saves you printer ink and paper. And Mother Earth will be happy that she will give you more piso sales. Kaya close kami nyan eh.

20. Sell unused domestic airline tickets.

Instead of letting the domestic airline tickets go straight to the waste bin, sell them in the black market if you’re sure of canceling them. The mechanics is an open secret.

21. Prepaid baggage saves money.

Changi Airport

While I don’t suggest getting baggage allowance on top of your free 7 kilogram hand carry, it is cheaper to purchase it during the web booking than on the check-in spot. Same with in-flight meals. BTW, AirAsia hot meals are the best.

22. For international flights, take note of the arrival times after midnight.

If you are a true blooded backpacker and want to stay away from taking airport cab to the city, research on the schedule of public transportation or you could spend the mornight in their airports.

23. Take advantage of pay later over-the-counter scheme of airlines.

After you reserved a seat in the web, booking is not confirmed yet. You have at most a day to pay for the actual cost in the several Bayad Centers or banks. Not until we find a way to lick those tickets online so no one would touch it ever, this is a good option.

24. Or pay via credit card.

This option gives reward points and automatic confirmation when transaction is successful. However, in case of refund of tickets, this route takes more time and patience. In the case of Air Asia, they charge you a fee, a fraction of the total cost, for using credit card compared to over-the-counter.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Just like love, even without a preview into the future, preparation should be in place for flight seat sales. And if you have some clues about how things will go, you can make more specific plans and more savings. Hopefully, this comprehensive list helps you a lot. Stay tuned for the sequel of this article.

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