Tuesday, 12 April 2016

My First Experience On A 436-seater Airbus A330-300 with Cebu Pacific!

Welcome to my Trip Report on Cebu Pacific's Airbus A330! 


*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net 

Cebu Pacific's Airbus A330-300, RP-C3341 


Introduction

The decision to fly on this airline's Airbus A330-300 was an easy one when I look at the airfare and aircraft types between Ho Chin Minh City to Manila and Manila to Singapore. Airfare of the latter was cheaper and have the option to fly on this wide-body. The timing is also not bad as I could spent the morning doing something before heading home. The other flights were operated by Airbus A320 and they were out of the question for me. So once that was decided, I make the booking. Cebu Pacific's website is my preference over Philippines. Lesser text and the process was faster and easier to use.

History of Cebu Pacific 

This airline is a Low Cost Carrier based in Manila, set up by JG Summit Holdings and was established in August 1998. This airline started operation in 1996 and operated a fleet of DC-9s. However, the start up didn't go smoothly as plan as the airline had to temporary suspend operation in February 1998 due to an aircraft accident. However, the suspension was lifted a month later and was operating on only domestic routes at that time. By the end of 2001, it was operating 18 domestic destinations with about 80 daily flights. In the early 2000s, the airline was doing pretty well in the domestic market so it decided to be more ambitious by introducing flights on regional routes such as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. With approval to do so, the airline launched its first international route on November 2001 firs to Hong Kong then to Seoul. Singapore route was introduced later on but the SARs epidemic caused a disruption to the plans and the airline was forced to suspend Manila-Singapore route. In 2006, this airline made a return to Singapore on its Manila-Singapore route and later on Cebu-Singapore route was introduced. As time passed by, the airline continued to do well and new order of aircraft was made, including introduction of the ATR-72 and later on the Airbus A330-300 which was configured in the highest density. Airline has launched flights to the Middle East, Australia and U.S (Guam) and the future looks very bright for the airline. 



Old Fleet of Cebu Pacific 

DC-9-31/-32 series

Past livery


Different special liveries (Do you like them?)




Boeing 757-200

Past livery 


Special livery 


Current fleet (Old livery)

ATR-72-500

This aircraft's landing gear was so close to hitting the fence. 


Airbus A319 


Airbus A320 (Fuselage is longer than A319)


One of the Airbus A320s in special livery (Advertisement)


The airline promoting its own frequent flyer program



Airbus A330-300


Airbus A320 in the new livery 

I like it, what do you think?


Night shot of this A320 in the new livery 



About Manila Airport 



An overview of MNL Airport


Photo credited to wikipedia (below)

The map of the airport 


Manila Airport is known as Ninoy Aquino International Airport which serves the people living in this capital city. This airport is a hub for PAL Express, Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia Zest and Cebu Pacific. Currently this airport has 5 terminals, so make sure check which terminal your airline is operating from. Getting from one terminal to the next may be time consuming if you are waiting for the shuttle bus. 

The original airport to serve Manila before this known as Grace Park Airfield aka Manila North, opened in 1935. 2 years later, Manila International Air Terminal was in operation and and served as a gateway during that period. The airport was moved a few times before finally settling for the current location in 1948. A few years after the world war 2, runway and taxiway were built and 2 years later a control tower and a proper terminal building were ready to use. Unfortunately in 1972, a fire took place in this terminal and a new building was built to replace it and became the international terminal until 1981 when the current terminal 1 building replaced it. In August 1987, the current name of the airport was given to honour Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jnr who was assassinated at the airport after arrival from the U.S. After that, recommendation to build 2 new terminals was approved and terminal 2 was completed in 1998 and terminal 3 in 2002. Unfortunately for terminal 3, due to technical and legal issues, it was only fully operational in August 2014. Terminal 4 is the oldest building and its known as the old domestic terminal building while Terminal 5 is known as the Budget Terminal and is currently at the planning stage. So not much details of this new terminal for now but it would be located beside terminal 3. 


Terminal 1 

This is the 2nd oldest terminal airport building, completed in 1981. Started operation in April 1982. The airport capacity size is 720,000 sq ft and have 18 Jet Bridges in operation. 



Airlines using this terminal (April 2016)

Air China
Air Niugini
Asiana Airlines
China Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines
Etihad Airways
EVA Air 
Gulf Air 
Japan Airlines 
Jeju Air 
Jetstar Asia
Jetstar Japan
Korean Air 
Kuwait Airways 
Malaysia Airlines 
Oman Air 
Qantas
Qatar Airways
Royal Brunei Airlines
Saudia 
Thai Airways
Tigerair
Turkish Airlines
United Airlines 
V Air 
Xiamen Air 

Terminal 2 (Centennial terminal)

This terminal started operation in 1999 and was named Centennial terminal in commemoration of the centennial year of the declaration of Philippines Independence. Slightly bigger than Terminal 1 with a size of 810,000 sq ft, but has lesser Jet Bridges at 12. 


Departure Hall (Air Side)



Airlines using this terminal: 

Philippines Airlines 
PAL Express (Certain routes only)

Some photos I took when I disembarked from my PAL flight (trip report over here)

Unfortunately for me, there were a few other flights just arrived which means more passengers at the immigration queue. 


3 flights at one luggage carousal - expect a long wait!



Arrival Hall (Outside the terminal)


It wasn't so bad as not many locals approached me to take their cars to wherever I go. I was advised to avoid them and take the public taxi. Grabtaxi and Uber would be my first choice next time round due to a bad experience. 




Locals hanging around 




Security guards were everywhere so it feels a bit safer 



Terminal 2 doesn't look too shabby 



Airport Control Tower 


Terminal 3 

This is the newest and biggest terminal among the current 4. Construction started in 1997 but was finally completed in 2008. During the 10 years, this terminal was embroiled in battles (legal issues) with both United States and Singapore. Finally it opens its door in July 2008 with selected domestic flights to operate first before the international flights (airlines) were allowed to operate at this terminal at the end of February 2011. 

Photo: Wikipedia


More photos of this terminal in my later part of this trip report. 

Airlines using this terminal 

Air Asia
Air Asia Zest (International)
All Nippon Airways
Cathay Pacific
Cebu Pacific
Delta Airlines
Emirates
KLM
PAL Express (Selected flights)
Singapore Airlines

Terminal 4 

This is the oldest terminal used for only domestic flights. This terminal has no aero-bridges therefore passengers would either have to walk or take the bus from the terminal to the aircraft. Photos of this terminal are taken from wikipedia. 




Airlines that use this terminal 

Air Asia Zest (Domestic)
Air Swift 
Cebgo
Sky Pasada
Skyjet

Airline's website 


The details is clear and what is also important is the aircraft type listed on it, just click on the flight number for more details. 


I went for the Fly + Bag + Meal option


Disappointedly, only 2 choices were offered. I chose the Chicken Inasal. 


My recommendation is to choose row 47 - no extra cost and you have some space for yourself. For this trip, I decided to choose the 3-seater to experience for myself how tight the seat width is. 



Conditions to read before you do your booking. 


My trip itinerary was confirmed. I find the website experience with this airline more pleasant than Philippines Airlines' website. 


My experience in Manila 

I got to experience Manila's good food thanks to a couple of friends. 



My stay: Guijo Suites Makati Hotel 

Decent rate, comfortable room but average hotel service



I was upgraded to this room, paid U.S$45 for this room for a night.




I spotted this cafe across the hotel, decided to check it out after reading the review. 

Restock Cafe



Pretty strong coffee I must say. 


Kanin Club - A Filipino restaurant 


Interior 


Green Mango Salad 


Kanin Club Beer


Kanin Club Crispy Dinuguan


Kanin Club Fried Tilapia


Fried Rice 


Kanin Club Bistek Tagalog


Map of Pampanga (Razon's of Guagua) 


Can't remember what is this called but this is made of just flour. 


Razon's of Guagua Famous Halo-Halo


The following morning, I had breakfast at the hotel. Decent selection of food but they charge for juice which I don't understand. 



My flight was at 12.30 in the afternoon, I decided to leave around 9.20. Instead of taking the hotel's transport (exorbitant price), I went for Uber. Don't laugh at me but it was my first time using this application. Within minutes, the car arrived. Driver wasn't in a mood for a conversation but he got me to the airport safe and sound. 



Once I reached the airport, I went to explore the terminal. Check in was not opened yet so I spent the time taking some photos of the interior of the departure hall. 

Web check-in

For Cebu Pacific international flights (except U.S - Guam), you can check-in 72 hours before departure. 




I decided to move seat and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Read on to find out why. 


I settled for a few rows in front of my original seat. 




Check-in successfully completed. Of course I chose not to print out the boarding pass so that I could obtain the proper boarding pass at the counter. 


Terminal 3 

Photos of the land side

This is the dropping point for Cebu Pacific. Everyone including the non-flying public has to undergo security check before making the way inside the terminal.





This is where I suppose to be going. 



Interior of the terminal looks modern, sadly the airport WiFi was not working for me. 



Long queue was formed, waiting for the Cebu International check-in counters to open. Why couldn't the staff allow us to queue up at the check-in lines instead? 



Advertisement for Singapore Airlines! SQ operates Boeing 777-300ER on one of the flights to Manila. 





Long queues at other airlines' check-in counters as well.


Looks like a shopping mall to me if you remove the Arrival/Lost & Found signboard


Emirates has its own Reservation and Ticketing office in this airport



Passengers were encouraged to use the Cebu Pacific's self check-in kiosk. To me it doesn't matter since I still have to go to the counter to drop my luggage. Priority was to get the boarding pass. 



After my quick tour around the departure hall, I joined the queue and waited around 15 minutes before we were allowed in the check-in area. 


Once there, I joined the web check-in queue and had to wait for another 5 minutes for the front passenger to clear before finally getting my boarding pass and luggage checked in.



An overview of the check-in counters 



Shopping area and restaurants are located at the 2nd level. Do remember to keep track of the time!



A good number of restaurants are located at the land side, certainly more choices than the ones at the air side (restricted area). 


The air side area 


Transit Lounge is located at the same level as the restaurants and shopping area. It's a paid lounge. 




Sitting area for possibly passengers waiting for their friends or relatives to arrive 





Lots of sitting area in this terminal


As a big fan of pancakes, I decided to give this restaurant a try. 


I had the Caramel Banana Walnut pancake with Sunrise Orange - Average 



This way to the security and immigration, make sure you enter the right departure section.


Air Side (Restricted area)


Do remember to keep track of your departure time as the walk can take a while depending how far is the concourse to the gate. 


Interior looks too basic for my liking 


Not many flights at this time 



I was at the 2nd level earlier on (land side)


Somehow the interior looks looks half complete 


There are shops along the way




Some cafes and snack shops to check out 


Some of the gates are in enclosed area while some are not, I wonder why. 



This is where my departure gate was supposed to be but because a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 was still at the gate when the departure time of my flight was near, we were moved to gate 112. 



A few working computers to use, I think it's free to use them


The open space gates and you can see some Cathay Pacific staff waiting. At that time, there were 2 Cathay Pacific flights, one of them had arrived while the other was on final approach (Thanks to Flightradar24)



From this point, there are no more shops, but there are toilets along the way and seating areas. 


Gate 102-107 were not in used at that time




Spotted RP-C3343 heading to gate 112. 


 Originally at gate 111 to 112 (below)


We were then asked to move to 110, as I suspected RP-C3343 aircraft (Airbus A330) went tech (Problem with the aircraft) and I noticed RP-C3341 was being to towed to gate 110 while the large number of passengers were moving over to the new assigned gate. This means one thing, another delay and true enough another announcement confirmed it. 


The passengers on my flights were not happy. 


My flight route: MNL-SIN

Miles: 1,474



My ride: RP-C3341





Date of departure: 17th March 2016
Airline: Cebu Pacific 
Flight: 5J805
Route: MNL-SIN
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Registration: RP-C3341 (leased from Macquarie Air Finance)
Delivered on 13th June 2013
Configuration: Y436
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce Trent 772B engines
MSN: 1420 
Gate: 111 to 112 to 110
Seat: 42J 
Load: 95% 
FL: 400
Duration 3 hours 5 mins 
Boarding: 1352
Push back: 1459
Take off: 1515
Schedule departure: 1330
Schedule arrival: 1700 (1800)
Actual arrival: 1800
Departure runway: 24
Arrival runway: 02L



Finally, announcement was made to board but before it was finished, a large group of passengers headed towards the counter staff. It was a mess but fortunately for me, I managed to get to the front pretty quickly and soon I was on my way to the aircraft. By this time, I was feeling tired and I just couldn't wait to get home. 

Spotted my ride while walking down towards the aero-bridge connected to the gate. Luckily we were not made to take the bus to the aircraft, otherwise it would be even worse especially in this hot weather. 





Once on board, the cabin crew near the door greeted us and I was shown how to get to my seat. The other crew at their strategic location greeted me while on my way there. Good set of crew I must say.  

Economy Class photos

Look at how narrow the seats are! 


A full flight of 440 passengers on this medium size Airbus A330-300 is not fun to be on. 


31' inch legroom space 



The conventional windows on this Airbus A330



Last row of Economy Class in the second cabin, the seats are able to recline. 


I don't think the number of toilets are enough 


The emergency row, avoid the window seat as part of your legroom space is obstructed


The legroom space in the middle row is probably the best 


Limited legroom space for the window seat passenger


At the last cabin now, the last few rows are 2-seater due to the diameter of the fuselage curving in


The view from my seat 


Waiting patiently during the 15 minutes delay 


The Economy Class cabin photographed during the flight 


The lady walking down the aisle is the cabin crew, what do you think of the airline's uniform?


The lack of In-Flight Entertainment means many passengers have to use their own electronic devices for entertainment. 


See the narrow aisle along the 3-3-3 seating configuration?


Cabin's crew work space at the rear 


View of the cabin from the left side 


Flying on my 87th airline! 


Cabin crew's seat 


Emergency door 


2 small lavatories at the rear, the other one is located at the other side.


Decent looking Y Class seats 


My seat, photographed after arrival 


The colours of the seat is matching 


Standard Airbus A330 Overhead panel 



Glad to be on my way out


Last look at the seats before I leave the aircraft 



More photos of my seat 


Legroom space was bearable 



Photographed these shots before my seat mates appear 






Photos of the toilet 




What's inside the seat pocket? 

Safety Card 


Disposal Bag 


In-flight magazine 


In-flight experience

The cabin crew were generally nice, some looked stress especially during the meal service but on the whole, I felt they did their jobs well and everything went smoothly. Passengers were well behaved and that helps the crew. 

Once I got to my seat, I was slightly disappointed to have seat mates but they are pretty nice. During the flight, we struck a conversation and ended up exchanging contact. Always nice to make new friends, right?  

For Filipino airlines, electronic devices as long as they are in in-flight mode are allowed to be used from gate to gate. (Departure gate to arrival gate). However, during safety demonstration which on my flight was done manually, do pay attention to it even you are a regular passenger. Different aircraft = different configuration, always good know just in case. The problem is some passengers tend to panic, causing the rest to do so and that's where the problem lie. So pay attention and relax when an emergency situation occurs. Remember, panicking will slow things down!

The Captain announced a further delay due to some problems getting permission with the Airport Traffic Control to depart as soon as possible. I wasn't sure what he was saying, but he mentioned about Cathay Pacific taking up the original gate and heavy traffic going on at that time (2 p.m) and I checked Flightradar24 below, everything seems normal to me. Very puzzling but doesn't matter, as long as we were on our way, that matters most. One of the engines was started while the aircraft was still at the gate and we waited for 15 minutes before finally pushing back. 

Check these photos! My aircraft was parked at the blue dot. 


I don't understand why we couldn't push back when there wasn't much traffic around us during the 15 minutes. 


Finally, we started pushing back after 15 minutes and once the 2nd engine was started, we taxied to runway 24 for departure. The flight crew gave us a detailed report on our departure and later on updated us on the weather in Singapore and all that. Apology was also made and the flight crew promised to try his best to make up for loss time. 

Take off was slightly bumpy but was smooth once we were out of Philippines, flying over South China Sea for 2 hours 40 minutes before making a U-turn at one of the Indonesian islands as we prepared for arrival on runway 02L, Changi Airport. 

Once the seat belt sign was turned off, the crew began their duty. They started off with a quiz which many passengers were not in the mood to play. Fortunately for the crew, they found a winner and gave each other a thumb up after that before resuming their normal duties. 

BOB service and pre-paid meals were then served and for the seat mates and myself, we got the same meal, the Chicken Inasal which comes with a drink of our choice. Its better to pre-order your meal as they get sold out quickly especially on a full A330 flight.

The rest of the flight was uneventful, had a chat with my seat mates while enjoying the view of the world passing by. Cabin crew had done well I feel and I feel for them because of the delay, they were go home later so do give them some appreciation when you leave the aircraft especially the hard working and friendly crew. Try your best not to make their lives difficult. 

In-flight meal 

Chicken Inasal - I enjoyed it very much especially with the soy sauce over the rice  


It was steaming hot when the staff handled the food over. I definitely recommend this. 


My choice of drink - orange juice 


Thanks to my seat mate for this! I saw this at one of the snack shops but I wasn't sure whether its nice. If I had known earlier it was this tasty, I would have bought a few packets. 


In-flight WiFi 

I was surprised Wifi was available on this flight but the rates is not worth it.




The trouble of setting up the account 



For the small plan, it cost US$2 for 8MB I think. 





I know I would definitely use around 200 MB, and after looking at this pricing, I gave it a miss. 

You can still check out the news though


Window-shot photos 

Beautiful weather at Manila! RP-C3346 was being prepared for departure


A special livery aircraft of Cebu Pacific was spotted 


Spotted Terminal 2 as it's the home of Philippines Airlines 




Soon, we were on the main taxiway towards runway 24 


Spotted a Philippines Airlines Airbus A330-300 taking off


A Japan Airlines Boeing 767-300ER following suit 


Passing by one of the exit points 



Another Philippines Airbus A330-300 taking off 


We were at the threshold, waiting for another aircraft to take off before it was our turn


Take off! Slightly bumpy but the weather condition once we were out of Philippines 


Passing through some clouds 





Much better flying condition 


Making a few turns for correct heading to Singapore 


Enjoying the ride at FL350


After 2 hours 40 minutes of flying, we started our descend 



Making a U-turn near Indonesia 


Approach and landing was smooth 



This is Indonesia, one of the many islands! This would be our final turn before lining up for runway 02 Left 




On final approach to Singapore's runway 02 Left 


Within minutes before touching down 


Touched down smoothly and spotted the usual traffic at Changi Airport in the evening. 



We exited the taxiway and taxied for around 15 minutes before reaching our gate at Terminal 2. 



Passing by Terminal 1 and the Qantas group are here.


Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-300 would rest here for a few hours before it's flight home to Istanbul. 


Passing by British Airways' Airbus A380



With that, my March 2016 trip came to an end. 

Videos of the take off and landing 



My rating:

Airline's website: 6/10
Manila Airport terminal 3 Experience: 5/10
Check-in staff: 6/10
In-flight service: 6/10
Seat comfort: 3/10 (3-3-3 configuration is terrible)
Cabin interior: 6/10 
Cleanliness: 0/10 (Cockroach spotted) 
Punctuality: 0/10 
In-flight meal: 7/10 
Aircraft condition: 8/10
Overall rating: 47/100

Conclusion

This is the lowest rating I have given so far and I think this number sums up my experience mostly for the delay, the "non-paying" visitor and the uncomfortable ride on the 3-3-3 (window seat) experience. The 15 minutes delay with one of the engines running at the gate remain a mystery to me even though the Captain claimed that due to Air Traffic Control, we had to stay for a while but why with one engine running? Possibly the APU (Provides power for the aircraft when engines are off) is not functioning? I didn't probe the crew about it as I was feeling exhausted by the time we reached Singapore. The late departure was mainly due to the late arrival of the aircraft. With a small fleet of Airbus A330-300, it would be difficult to follow the schedule if one or two become unavailable for whatever reasons. The airline may have spare aircraft - smaller Airbus A319 or A320 aircraft but they can only accommodate a total of 180 seats (A320) and my flight had around 400 over passengers, it would be difficult to transfer the stranded ones to other flights, even though there are 2 more flights (those flights may be full) for the day, transferring to another airline would not be possible since this is a Low Cost Carrier and rivals are unlikely to help out. So the airline had no choice but to delay this flight. Whether this delay impacts the next few flights, only the airline knows and have to prepare for service recovery depending on how long the delay. I heard from my friends that delays is common with this airline. So if you fly with this carrier, be prepared for one. 

Overall, this airline's safety record is decent (safe in my opinion) and if I fly with this carrier again, I hope to have a better experience especially departing from Manila. From this trip, comparing both Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific, I would rather pay more to fly with Philippines Airlines.

As for Manila Airport Terminal 3, I feel lots more can be done to improve the facilities, not just this terminal, the others as well. A better transport system (Taxis, Buses and Train system) connecting from the airport terminals to town would be great. I can go on and on about the airport, but this will do for now. 

You can check out my Philippines Airlines Trip Report over here.

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
Charles 

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