The Backpacking Freelancer - Part II

22 June 2011
A common dilemma for frugal backpackers is choosing the better budget carrier to fly to Hong Kong. Which airline is cheaper: Cebu Pacific or Airphil Express? There aren't any fixed answers - especially when both are holding seat sales. Given the same promo fare from both carriers, your best bet would be to consider other factors when booking your flight.

Taxes and Fees on Top of the Advertised Fare

photo credit: Vera Kratochvil
There is bound to be a difference in the final fare after taxes and miscellaneous charges have been factored in.

For obvious marketing reasons, airlines do not want to broadcast the net amount because 4-digit figures can turn away a lot of potential customers.

An P888 deal looks more promising than P1,499, right? You do not even seem to mind the sneaky "excluding taxes" addendum.

These miscellaneous fees can inflate your final fare dramatically. Furthermore, they tend to fluctuate, so you might want to do a mock booking on both websites to avoid nasty surprises.

Airphil Express est. total taxes and fees: P2,980
  • air passenger departure tax: P673
  • fuel surcharge: P2,184
  • navcan and surcharges: P4
  • service fee: P112

Cebu Pacific est. total taxes and fees: P3,150
  • air passenger departure tax: P675
  • fuel surcharge: P2,183
  • security surcharge: P185
  • web administration fee: P116

Additionally, you also have to pay the Philippine travel tax of P1,620 and the international terminal fee of P550 (not P750) at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Time Too, Not Just the Fare

Research more ways to get the lowest possible airfare. Your search for the better deal does not end after knowing the final fare though. Review the flight schedule and see for yourself if you are really saving up on your travel over the long term. What other hurdles await you?

  • The Airphil Express direct flight from Cebu to Hong Kong leaves at 7 a.m. (beginning July 28). You will arrive close to 11 a.m. in Hong Kong, just in time for brunch. The city is already "alive" by then, so you should not encounter any problems dealing with moneychangers, buying an Octopus card, riding the MRT or showing up at your hotel a little after lunch. You can even lug your bags with you and explore the stalls inside the airport a bit before heading out.

    The major downside: You lose half of your day at the airport. You might also end up wanting to spend the afternoon resting in your hotel.

  • Cebu Pacific's direct flight from Cebu to Hong Kong leaves at 10:15 p.m. and arrives close to 1 a.m. in Hong Kong. Most of the airport stalls are closed by then, save for a few ubiquitous 7-Eleven shops and McDonald's. While the Airport Express and MRT do not resume operation until 5:50 a.m. the earliest, you can take the taxi or the night bus to your hotel or guesthouse, catch some sleep and wake up recharged to explore the city.

    The major downside: Most lodging houses observe a standard check-in time of 2:00 or 3 :00 p.m. They will charge late-night and early-morning arrivals a full night's rent for the previous day.*  
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