Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Airports in the Philippines

I've been to a number of local airports from Laoag, Ilocos Norte in the north down to Davao City in the south and I want to qualitatively rank my favorites or at least why I like them. Airports mainly serve as a gateway to a destination, in other words visitors will base their first impression of a place on what they see from the moment they deplane.

*Most Beautiful Airport Terminal: "New" Iloilo Airport
-Obviously the new airport is well designed and I like the touch of its indoor pocket gardens (the outdoor gardens are also beautiful). The aerobridge design is reminiscent of the ones in Hong Kong International as passengers walk separate levels for arrival and departure.

*Most Accessible Airports: Puerto Princesa Airport and "Old" Bacolod Airport
-They are both in the city center and accessible through the main highway. All you have to do is get out the terminal building and hail a taxi, jeep or tricycle.

*Most Picturesque Airport: Legazpi Airport (Albay)
-With Mayon volcano spewing smoke in its background, nothing comes close. I spent an hour at the passenger's lounge just staring at Mayon.

*Cute Airports: Roxas Airport (Capiz) & Dumaguete Airport (Negros Oriental)
-They are compact (small) airports with buildings just like a typical house in a province with jalousie windows :) Nevertheless, they serve their main purpose.

*Airport With the Best Entertainment: Tagbilaran Airport (Bohol)
-While waiting for your flight at the compact departure lounge, a band who are members of an association for the blind will entertain you until your ontime/delayed flight arrives. They automatically stop when there's an announcement from the paging system, hehehe.

*Best View During Landing: Lumbia Airport (Cagayan de Oro) & Tacloban Airport
-As the airport and runway are on top of a hill 600 feet above sea level surrounding by a mountain range it looks like you are landing on the middle of a valley. On approach you can also see up close the paradise island of Camiguin. As for Daniel Romualdez Airport in Tacloban, I like its location as the runway is literally on a beach.

*Airport With a Touch of "Native" Flare: Loakan Airport (Baguio City)
-The facade of the Philippines' highest airport at 4,251 feet above sea level is just like any other old airport here in the Philippines but upon entering its terminal one will notice its shiny pine wood floors including its walls and ceilings. One can even smell the pinewood as if you are inside a log cabin at Camp John Hay. The tarmac is higher than the terminal building itself so it looks like that it sank from its foundation.

Baguio Loakan Airport

*Most Overworked Airport: Mandurriao Airport (Iloilo) & Caticlan Airport (Boracay)
-The already closed airport in Iloilo which was replaced by a new airport in the town of Cabatuan just can't cope with the growing passenger traffic. It is the 4th busiest overall and the busiest among non-international airports. It is common to see 4 aircraft parked at the same time on the small tarmac. This airport has a sentimental value in my life as I once entered and exited its doors for more than 30x. I miss this airport as it is just a neighbor of SM City Iloilo unlike the new airport which is far from the city.

-As for Caticlan, at least 6 airlines operate more than 40 flights a day in and out in this small sunrise-to-sunset airport. Hands off to Caticlan.

*My 4 Favorite Philippine Airports:
1. Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao City)
-I just love this simple airport. It's very efficient from the moment you enter until you board your plane. For the comfort of passengers, the departure lounge is carpeted with good non-metal seats (I hate metal seats in airports!).

2. "New" Iloilo Airport
-Aside from its new and beautiful you can have a decent meal from the foodshop and bakeshop at the departure lounge even for a backpacker's budget. I only spent about 90-100 pesos for a rice meal with 1 viand, C2 tea drink and leche flan. No other domestic airports I have been to offered that kind of choices for only 100 pesos. There are plans to increase the terminal fee from 30 to 150 pesos and even if it becomes 150 pesos it is still a bargain compared to the 200 pesos at the Manila Domestic terminal which I think is an extortion with consent.

3. Mactan International Airport (Cebu)
-It's better (in most ways) than the three airport terminals in Manila, period.

4. Loakan Airport (Baguio)
-It's just so cute. This airport in the middle of Barangay Loakan may also be the Philippines' widest pedestrian lane as residents and vehicles can cross the runway freely when there are no flights coming to go to the other side of town. Additionally, the view of Baguio City immediately after takeoff is breathtaking.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm Off to Baguio City... I'll be Back in a Jiffy!

It's raining in the middle of summer? Well, it must be a global warming thing. I hope the weather will be better in the next 3 days (at least in Baguio) as I am very excited to ride a small turbopropeller Asian Spirit aircraft on our way back home. Normally it is just a 6-hr. drive from Manila but why did I chose to take an airplane back to Manila? It's simple, I'm just fascinated with small planes. Yup, I prefer to ride small propeller-driven planes than a Boeing 747 or Airbus A340. I think it would be my 6th or 7th time in Baguio so I am not that excited in what to see, eat and do there. I'm more excited to return in Manila in a turboprop.

I read from aviation enthusiasts that it's so much thrilling to land and takeoff at the Loakan Airport because of the views including the fear of going down a cliff at the end of the runway. Loakan Airport in Baguio is the country's highest airport with an elevation of 1,296 meters above sea level. The runway is short that Airbus A319 or A320 of other airlines cannot land there and because of visibility limitations the airport can only accommodate morning flights as it becomes foggy in the afternoon.

In line with my love of turboprop planes I also bought a roundtrip Asian Spirit ticket to Boracay for next month and I deliberately chose their 1-hr. flight using old Dash-7 aircraft rather than a quicker 35-min. flight using a jet plane.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Favorite Travel Quotes

I'm thinking of changing my banner tagline "Home--where my travels always start and usually ends." I can't think of any yet so I searched the Internet to find great travel quotes. Among countless of travel quotes the following are my favorites.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

"A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent (which I cannot deny myself to be without being impious) will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place...." -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

"In travelling; a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge." -Samuel Johnson

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."- Susan Heller

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -Lao Tzu

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Great Miles Getaway 2008

Good news to all Mabuhay Miles members, Philippine Airlines (PAL) lowered its Mabuhay Miles redemption value by HALF for its flights to its domestic and a number of its Asian destinations. For as low as 1,500 miles you can redeem a one-way domestic flight. International flights are available for as low as 7,500 miles for a roundtrip ticket. As usual, you have to pay for taxes and fuel surcharges upon redeeming these reward tickets.

*Legaspi and Roxas routes will just set u back 1,500 miles or if you want to travel in style you just need 2,000 miles for a Business Class seat.

*Visayas routes with Laoag and Puerto Princesa are available for only 2,000 miles or 2,500 for Business Class.

*If you have at least 3,250 miles you may be on your way to Mindanao. Add 1,000 miles for a seat upgrade.

*Hong Kong, Taipei and Xiamen can be redeemed for as low as 7,500 miles (roundtrip), while other selected Asian destinations will just set u back at least 10,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket.

Booking and ticketing for these reward tickets are from April 7 to May 7 only. For more information you may call PAL's hotline (02) 855-8888.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Extra Extra: The Birth of PAL Express

The only local legacy carrier in the country Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced that it created a budget counterpart (sub-brand) to be called PAL Express to cater to the prolific demand for low-cost airfare in its intra-regional routes in Visayas and Mindanao. The sub-brand will also tap the growing demand in domestic destinations which cannot be served even by its smallest jet aircraft Airbus A319 so it will acquire turbo-propeller aircraft like the Bombardier Q300 and Q400.

One will notice that destinations like Caticlan (Boracay) and Busuanga in Palawan are now available for purchase on PAL's website. These destinations can't support Airbus planes due to the limitations of airport facilities and runway dimensions.

PAL Express will have its maiden flight on May 5 with eight flights between Manila and Caticlan (Boracay).

The airline noted that PAL Express will not compete with PAL's existing budget carrier, Air Philippines, as the latter will service different set of destinations.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Universal Studios Manila & Manila Eye

Theme park at Genting Highlands in Malaysia

I am so excited by this very good news I read in the Philippine Star broadsheet. The Genting Berhad Group secured the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.(Pagcor)’s aprroval for its proposed project within the Las Vegas-like Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Manila Bay Integrated Tourism City which apparently will be call Universal Studios Manila as Genting holds the exclusive development rights of Universal Studios in Asia.

The company plans to invest $3 billion in the Manila Bay Integrated City, the Philippines’ biggest tourism development project.

Last year I have been to the Genting Highlands Resort near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I was impressed as it is like Baguio as it is on a plateau with a very big theme park with casinos and several hotels for guests wanting to stay overnight.

Genting Berhard Group’s proposal includes the development of leisure and entertainment facilities including a theme park, state-of-the-art theaters, amusement and cultural centers, retail and gaming center and hotels.

Universal Studio’s movie-theme Hollywood park has 13 attractions based on movies including Shrek, Jurassic Park and The Terminator. Excluding its restaurants and theaters, the theme park alone draws about four million visitors a year.

Besides Hollywood, Universal Studios has other parks in Orlando, Barcelona and Osaka, Japan.

Another investor group, Aruze Corp. of Japan is planning to put up an integrated resort featuring a hotel with 2,000 standard rooms and 300 VIP suites; a major oceanarium targeted to be the world’s largest; theaters, a sports arena, a Holy museum and a giant ferris wheel similar to the London Eye to be known as the Manila Eye.

So what's next? Disneyland Manila or Six Flags Manila? Why not!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

FREE! FREE! FREE! asian spirit & philippine airlines

Asian Spirit is currently celebrating its 12th anniversary by offering 12,000 FREE SEATS to all its domestic destinations. If you have a credit card, just pay the appropriate taxes and surcharges online in their official Web site and you will be issued an electronic ticket.

For more information you may call their hotline (02) 855-3333. Travel period is from June 1 to October 15.


Philippine Airlines (PAL) will once again roll out its FLY DOMESTIC ALL YOU CAN promotion starting April 15.

Free 2 DOMESTIC tickets for every purchase of 1 economy class regular fare domestic ticket which are valid for travel from June 15 to October 15. As with all other airfare sale here in the Philippines, each promo ticket does not include fuel surcharge and government taxes.

For bookings and more information, call PAL Reservations in Manila: (02) 855-8888, Cebu: (032) 340-0191, Davao: (082) 222-0366 or your local travel agent.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm Off to Bicol... I'll be Back in a Jiffy!

Another long weekend, another vacation. I want to thank President Gloria Arroyo for her holiday economics policy so all of us could enjoy a long weekend rather than not having work at the middle of the week because of a holiday.

This time of the travel season I will explore the region in the southeastern part of the main island of Luzon which is Bicol. I will try wakeboarding and kneeboarding at the CamSur Watersports Complex and will explore the vicinity near Mayon volcano. If time permits I want also to go to Donsol, Sorsogon to see the whale sharks. Most of all, I'm so excited to taste the authentic laing and Bicol express.

To my officemates... See you all on Wednesday (I filed an additional vacation leave :) hehehe.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ways to Avoid Delays (Air Travel)

It's the travel peak season once again! For those who will travel which requires you to pass at an airport, it may feel almost like a miracle if you will have a hassle-free time at major local and international airports. Delays in the aviation industry are now getting more the attention in the news whether caused by extreme weather disturbances, national security concerns, mechanical/technical problems or just a simple (but getting habitual) late arrival of turnaround aircraft. The news are everywhere claiming that delays have gotten worse year-by-year.

Even the Philippines' leading budget carrier Cebu Pacific advertised a few years back that their flights are leaving/arriving on-time 9 out of 10 times and even has a 90% on-time flights logo in their electronic tickets. But now I can't see that logo anymore everytime I receive my e-ticket, guess what? So it is very safe to assume that their flights are now leaving and arriving late more than 10% of the time. YES they are!!! What happened? Why the delays continue day-by-day even they are now operating a much reliable brand new Airbus airplanes compared with aging DC-9's and considering that their fleet were drastically increased?

You can blame the worsening ground and air traffic condition or how airlines operate their business but the point is the delays are sometime becoming unbearable for the passengers. We don't pay airlines for us to stay long in a cramped airport with pathetic facilities which even does not include a functioning drinking fountain (if there's even one).

So much for my ranting... As passengers, we can follow certain guidelines to help us prepare for that uneventful delay.

* The best time to fly is during the morning. Delays normally worsen throughout the day so if you are traveling early in the morning the chances of delays are greatly reduced.

* When booked with a connecting flight always leave enough time if you have to change airlines or go through long lines of airport security again. Budget airlines only offers point-to-point service, in other words they will not be in any reason be liable if you miss your connecting flight/s even if you are traveling with the same airlines.

* It always pays to read the "terms and conditions" section at the back of your paper ticket or at the airlines' official website. It is the passenger's duty to be familiar with the airline's rule for baggage limitations, identification requirements and check-in procedures.

* The most important tip I can share to you is to "BE EARLY." It is our responsibility as passengers to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to check-in and pass through security.

If you view these tips as inconveniences there's a way to circumvent all the hassles that a passenger might endure... buy a Business Class ticket in that way there will be a shorter queue at the check-in counters as they have a dedicated counter for you plus you can enjoy the lounge facilities before boarding your on-time/delayed flight.