Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm Off to Bali & Jakarta... I'll be Back in a Jiffy!

Whenever I hear the word Bali I am not that excited to see it as most of my friends (about 4 or 5 of them) who have been there claim that our very own Boracay Island is more physically beautiful than Bali. I am a fan of white sand beaches (my favorite is in Camiguin) and I know that Bali does not have the kind like in Boracay. I am intrigued by the popularity of that island 1.5 hrs. away by plane from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta that I frequently see the word Bali among the top beach destinations in a number of travel magazines and websites. One friend described Bali as the combination of Boracay (because of the beach), Siargao (surfer's paradise) and Cebu City (amenities and convenience of a city). June to August are the peak months to travel to Bali so airfare and hotel accommodations are a little bit expensive than the off-season months. It's nice to know that while it is the wet season here in the Philippines I will go to a place where I can enjoy the activities under the sun.

Bali offers a beachcomber endless choices. It is not just a beach...
  • novice or expert surfers find its waves even as good as Hawaii, if not better
  • party animals are spoilt with numerous bars, discos and entertainment houses including a Hard Rock Cafe
  • you'll never be homesick as Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut and Dunkin' Donuts are mainstays of a Bali diet
  • unlike the rest of Indonesia (the largest Muslim country in world), you will find pork and other non-Halal products in restaurant menu cards as the population is typically Hindu. They have "babi guling" as the counterpart of lechon baboy or suckling pig.
  • there are many malls, convenience stores, supermarkets and department stores so basically you can live there forever without needing to leave the confines of the island and still enjoy the amenities of a small city
  • transportation is not a problem as the island has its own international airport and seaport... taxis, motorcycles and bicycles are available in hourly, daily or even monthly rates
  • the island also has the most stunning temples, pagodas, forest reserves and landscapes like rice terraces and volcanoes which are among the best in the whole of Indonesia

The facts above came from various sources like blogs, travel sites and travel magazines. I'll update you in my blog if they are all true after I personally verify all of them.

As for Jakarta, more than anything else I am again excited to eat the Indonesian version of our halo-halo called "ais kacang." That's what I crave the most each time I'm in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia. I can easily devour 3 bowls in a day. But the best halo-halo for me is in Thailand as they use thick coconut milk as a substitute to evaporated milk as what we use here in the Philippines (I'll blog about it next time).

So... see you all after 5 days!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1 Million Free Seats vs. 35,000 Free Seats

It's good to know that Kuala Lumpur-based Air Asia is now again offering 1Million FREE Seats to all its destinations starting this day up to August 31. As what the name of the promotion suggests, you just need to pay for the administrative taxes and fuel surcharge. I am just not ecstatic with the travel dates being offered as you need to wait at least another 8 months before you can travel starting April 1, 2009. But for those who want to plan their vacation this early it would be acceptable. Kuala Lumpur can be a great stopover city when you plan to go to Phuket, Bali, Cambodia or Hanoi (all connecting through Air Asia of course) as there are no direct flights going there from Manila. I availed of this same kind of sale with Air Asia for my Clark-KL-Clark trip a little over two years ago when a roundtrip ticket then just set me back 2,239 pesos all-in (that's the cheapest airfare I got and to think that it is a 3.5-hour flight... during that time my roundtrip fare to Iloilo or Cebu would be more than 3,000 pesos). The roundtrip fare this time if you would like to travel from April 1 to July 31, 2009 is just 3,665 pesos which consists of just taxes and fuel surcharges.

So now, to give justice to my blog post title above... I just want to compare how our very own low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific measly but proudly advertise their ZERO fare sale even if they are just allocating 35,000 seats as compared with 1Million seats with Air Asia. I would be happier if they offer 100,000 seats instead of 35,000 like what they are doing before. I have friends going to Bangkok and Shanghai this November and they are having difficulty in finding ZERO fare seats. How can you expect to find a flight with that scracely 35,000 seats for travel from Sept. 16 to Dec. 17, 2008.

According to wikipedia, Air Asia operates a total of 50 aircraft as compared with Cebu Pacific with only 20 (As of today). So my point is, ideally Cebu Pacific can never really have a 1Million Free Seat Sale with their 20 aircraft just to keep up with its Malaysian counterpart. A ZERO Fare international seat sale of 200,000 or even just 100,000 would be very acceptable but not just 35,000. Cebu Pacific... I know you can do better.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Philippines-Thailand Flights to Come

Air Traffic at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), more popularly known as Clark Airport, is expected to boost further after a successful Philippines-Thailand Air Talks where Clark got 8,600 seats. Thailand will get reciprocal seat entitlements of 8,600 for the Clark route, bringing the total number of seat entitlements to 17,200 seats weekly.

Part of the air deal, cargo capacity at DMIA will be boosted from zero to 700 tons weekly, adding that there was no limitation on airline designation. The air agreement also allowed other carriers not limited to Clark. Manila airports got 5,400 seats from 2,930 with cargo allocation of 300 tons from more than 200 previously.

Other airports outside Clark and Metro Manila were given allocations of 2,110 seats from their previous 850 seats.

Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is also planning to operate other destinations in Clark, which includes Macau, Singapore and Taiwan making the former U.S. facility as their hub in the Northern Luzon area.

information based from

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's ZERO Fare Once Again (International Destinations)

I don't blog anymore fare promotions for domestic destinations here in the Philippines as almost every week or biweekly there is a seat sale from one of the airlines. But now, it is worthy of my time to blog this news as low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific brings back the ZERO fare for all of its international destinations.

The promotional seat sale starts today up to August 27 and is valid for travel from September 16 to December 17, 2008.

As usual with all other airlines when having a seat sale, the Zero fare scheme does not include taxes and fuel surcharges which range from $46 to $90 depending on the destination. I am just dumbfounded after learning that only 35,000+ were allocated for this particular promotion. I'm just used to hearing that Cebu Pacific allocates for than 100,000 seats for its seat sales. I'm trying to make dummy bookings just to know how much the fares costs for my targeted destinations but I'm having difficulty searching for the dates that I want as not all flights display the ZERO fare promo. On the bright side, this particular seat sale made travelling outside the Philippines still more affordable even if the price of petroleum products are not yet stable.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

State of the Industry -- Airlines

For the past weeks I'm watching international news in cable channels like CNN, BBC and Channel News Asia, I can't help to notice that airline news is one of the hottest issues being reported whether in Asia, Europe or North America. A layoff here, additional fees for each checked bag there and tens of issues more which directly or indirectly affect the 2.3 billion riding public annually in a negative way. The numerous news today are a far cry on what is the industry like two years ago when almost all industry leaders are predicting a double digit growth in the fleet size and income of airlines as the demand for air travel will soar in the sky specially for emerging markets like China, India and the Middle East.

Never I heard a news report two years ago that airlines will cut their flight frequencies in a number of its destinations or they will cancel their orders of new aircraft to better service their loyal customers.

The evil power of speculation took its toll in the price of petroleum products specially for the jet fuel hungry jumbo airplanes. All modes of transportation that require petroleum were affected with special emphasis on airlines as their airplanes gobbled up gallons of jet fuel by the minute. Some airlines were forced to cut costs by laying-off hundreds of its employees like what the biggest carriers in the U.S. did. Another way to cut costs for the airlines is by opting to a more budget friendly alternatives in their direct and overhead expenses like outsourcing non-operational work like cleaning planes and passenger reservation services. For example, don't be surprised if you hold an American Airlines or Delta Airlines ticket and decides to call the airline's hotline number to request for a vegetarian meal and from the other side of the line an Asian-sounding accent agent answered your call. I have a friend who worked for a call center here in Manila which handled calls on behalf of American Airlines reservations department in the U.S.

If I may conclude, I think that the golden age of flying has ended many years ago. Many say that you don't get anymore a privilege feel when you fly these days unlike 10 to 20 years ago when all of the passengers get a pampering in the air and even before entering the departure gate. Even some legacy or full-service carriers are adopting the business models being used by low cost carriers as they start to charge for baggage fees, no more free food on short flights (if there is, you will be bombarded with empty calories from junk foods) and I even heard in the news that a U.S. airline will start to charge passengers who want to use pillows and blankets... on the bright side you can take home those as a souvenir. I just hope that the airlines will not have an idea to charge us passengers for using their seat belts.

For those who just want to get from point A to point B and are not particular about the special complimentary services legacy airlines offer, they have the budget airlines or low-cost carriers to thank for. An airline makes money when its airplanes are on the air so budget airlines reduced its aircraft turnaround time to increase its aircraft utilization. I am not a fan of budget airlines but as much as possible I try to fly with them to save a few hundreds of pesos. Some budget airlines even operate newer airplanes as compared to full-service airlines so safety and aircraft maintenance issues are not my concern.

Now that the price of petroleum products continue to stabilize in the world market, I hope that airlines will now avoid plunging into red this time because I love flying and I don't want them to loose their business as it is always good for the consumer for an industry to have many competitors.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Best Airports in the World

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has been named the World's Best Airport for 2008, in the survey of passengers around the world released last month by Skytrax. I am not anymore surprised with the distinguished achievement of HKIA as it already received 6 same awards given by Skytrax for the pass ten years. My favorite Singapore Changi Airport as in the last travel awards remains in 2nd position worldwide, ahead of Seoul Incheon International Airport in 3rd place. Airports here in Asia dominated the survey rankings as half of the top 10 airports in the world can be found in the largest continent. Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Kansai International Airport are the other Asian airports which placed in the 2008 results.

The top 10 airports are: (drum roll please!)

1. Hong Kong International Airport
2. Singapore Changi International Airport (Asia)
3. Seoul Incheon International Airport (Asia)
4. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Asia)
5. Munich International Airport (Europe)
6. Kansai International Airport (Asia)
7. Copenhagen International Airport (Europe)
8. Zurich International Airport (Europe)
9. Helsinki International Airport (Europe)
10. Cape Town International Airport (Africa)

The World Airport Survey is conducted by UK-based aviation research organisation, Skytrax, with more than 8.2 million questionnaires completed by passengers across the world, during the 10 month survey period.

Passenger interviews include a detailed appraisal for more than 40 categories of product and service quality from check-in to departure, from arrivals to baggage collection - including terminal cleanliness, staff efficiency, staff courtesy, terminal signage, security processing, immigration and customers, walking distances, as well as features like shopping, dining options, Internet services.

My only comment is that I like Changi more than Hong Kong. I guess there is just a thin line which separates these two top airports as they are always battling it out to be on top in different passenger surveys.