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Philippine Airlines: The Best and Cheapest

Philippine Airlines: The Best and Cheapest. I’ve used the services of Philippines Airlines, PAL, and Cebu Pacific in the past.  During my recent trip to the United States, however, I flew to Las Vegas on Korean Air. The service on both PAL and Korean Air, which handle international flights, is first class. Cebu Pacific has several international flights but the bulk of their business is focused on domestic flights within the Philippines. Their service? As far as I’m concerned, less than stellar.

Philippines Airlines

But what’s my criteria for selecting an airlines for flights within the Philippines or visits to the States? First and foremost, price. I’m looking for the cheapest way possible to travel. Safety is not a major concern for me.

What are your odds of dying in a plane crash? David Ropeik, a Risk Communication instructor at Harvard University, found in 2006 that the odds of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million.

Proponents of traveling by plane often note that one has a better chance of dying in a car accident than on a flight.  According to Ropeik, the odds of dying in a car crash are one in 5,000. The odds of dying in a shark attack are one in 3.1 million.

Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, addressed the rarity of death by plane crash in 2013 after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, killing three passengers. He wrote the following in a column for CNN.com :

“a traveler could on average fly once a day for 4 million years before succumbing to a fatal crash.”*

That said, I would give pause to board another Malaysia Airlines flight again. I used them once in the past to travel to the Philippines. But on the whole, viewing the above odds of dying in a plane crash, only reaffirm what I say to my wife anytime I’ve ever flown: “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.” She hates when I say that and we both are on a flight.

Following improvements in the safety situation in the Philippines, Philippine Airlines was the first airline from the Philippines to be allowed back into European skies since 2010.


Top Aviation Safety Tips InfographicWhat are the best airline safety tips to help you survive a crash?
Source: ASecureLife.com


So what airlines can get me from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, NAIA, in Manila to Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport the cheapest, if I booked a flight online today and left at the end of March 2015 and stayed two weeks? Air China can get me to Sin City for  $1,045 but it will take two stops and 26 hours. 26 hours? My Korean Air flight had one stop in South Korea, a three hour layover, and only took ten hours to reach Vegas from Incheon.

Philippine Airlines is charging $1,388 for the same flight with a total travel time of  26 hours. One stop is scheduled at Honolulu International Airport with a six hour layover. Hawaiian Airlines takes over and flies to Vegas.

Skiddo informs me that Korean Air can take me to Las Vegas for $1,188, about the same price it cost me back in September. Only one stop with a total duration time of 18 hours. So for about 150 bucks more, though the cheapest international flight is my biggest priority, I would certainly be glad to pay a little extra for a huge decrease in flight time. And since I had a very positive experience with Korean Air last trip, I certainly would not hesitate to use them again.

But, of course, Korean Air is not a Philippine airline. While I have traveled via PAL in the past and had no complaints about their service, perhaps the best way to travel to the States is with a foreign carrier. If I could get a better price from PAL and a shorter flight time, I would consider flying them again.

However, what Philippine airlines is the best domestic carrier? I’ve used Cebu Pacific on several occasions. I haven’t used any other carrier because I could always get the cheapest price from Cebu Pacific. That doesn’t  make them the best domestic airlines in the Philippines by any means. If you don’t get a seat located in the emergency exits you will have extremely limited leg room. On short domestic flights that’s not too bad, but they have no extra perks and send their flight attendants up and down the aisles trying to sell you snacks. Save yourself some money and bring your own.


PAL flight attendants

(Photo Source: Philippine Airlines website)


PAL Express, Air Asia Zest and Tiger Air are other options. So which one can get me from Iloilo City, our nearest airport, to Manila?

I can fly in January with Cebu Pacific for 30 bucks. What is PAL Express charging?   82 Dollars. Guess which domestic airline in the Philippines I’m going to book? Air Asia Zest doesn’t go from Iloilo to Manila. Before it became Air Asia Zest my sister-in-law from Guimaras, Alida, used Zest from Iloilo before but had an extremely negative experience with them; her flight was canceled. Tiger Air does fly out of Iloilo International Airport but their website doesn’t show any domestic flights within the Philippines.

But Tiger Air does have some good promo rates to Singapore. 60 dollars from Cebu to Singapore and 90 dollars from Clark to Singapore.

So what Philippine airlines is the best? Which one is the cheapest? While I mentioned that safety is not my primary concern, it is something to be considered. Common sense dictates that. Since its foundation in 1941, Philippine Airlines has suffered more than 60 aircraft crashes, terrorist attacks and aircraft hijackings. Most of these accidents and incidents involved propeller-driven aircraft; and most occurred prior to the 1980s.**

Airlines Ratings gives PAL Express and Cebu Pacific 4 out of 7 stars in their safety rating. AR gives PAL Express a 4 out of 5 stars for their product rating, while Cebu Pacific only garnered three stars in that category.Tigerair Singapore scored 5 out of 7 stars for safety but only 2.5 stars for their product. Air Asia was not ranked by Airlines Rating at this time. Korean Air took 7 out of 7 stars for safety and product in the full service airline category. I would completely agree with that assessment. They had professional flight attendants, good food and were ahead of schedule on my flight to Las Vegas and my return trip to Manila.

So which Philippine airlines is better? Both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have their pros and cons. PAL is sometimes referred to as “Plane Always Late” and my online research gives Cebu Pacific the edge on departures and arrivals. PAL has much more modern aircraft while Cebu Pacific is known for using old planes and has no fancy frills and bells and whistles which explains their lower fares.

PAL has much more passenger leg room and offers free snacks. Cebu Pacific, as mentioned earlier, sells their refreshments on board. Flight attendants on Cebu Pacific are dressed more casual than their counterparts on PAL and also have a more casual attitude than PAL attendants. Philippine Airlines is the premier airline carrier of the Philippines when traveling out of the country but Cebu Pacific is the preferred provider for domestic flights due mainly to their lower promo flight fees.



cebu pacific large


On several occasions when I traveled via Cebu Pacific, including my flight from Manila to Iloilo during my recent trip to the States, they have changed the gates at the last moment. This is frustrating to me and has never occurred with any other airlines I have used. The cramped leg space is a problem, especially for guy that’s six feet tall like me, or someone taller. I was able to get a seat by an emergency exit on my recent flight to Manila but was cramped in the regular seats on my way back home. When a lady on the flight back took it upon herself to change seats and plop her butt in front of my seat I knew she was going to recline her seat. I had just been in the air over 16 hours and was no mood to deal with this. I simply kept pushing the back of her seat with my knees. She looked back at me and said nothing and moved over a seat.

If their was another domestic airlines in the Philippines that offered good prices, I would use them. But I’m left with Cebu Pacific or using passenger ships, which while they take longer, are more enjoyable to travel than Cebu Pacific. And usually cheaper.

Bottom line. Philippine Airlines: The Best and Cheapest? PAL is the best. Cebu Pacific the cheapest. Who do you think is the best? Or cheapest?


*(Source: International Business Times.)
**(Source: Wikipedia)

7 thoughts on “Philippine Airlines: The Best and Cheapest”

  1. Great article Dave! Liza and I also go cheapest for domestic. Seeing as the longest you’ll be on a domestic flight is 45 – 60 minutes (air time), we just go with whoever has the best promo.

    There is one other factor we take into account. Luggage weight limits and cost on domestic flights. Domestic luggage costs for anything over the weight of your carry on can add up quickly. So, when we are travelling (and it isn’t typhoon season), we often fly to our destination and take a ferry back to Iloilo.

    It costs about the same typically to do this and you have unlimited luggage, a private room (in most cases) with A/C, C/R, TV, etc… We can just board the ship in the evening, have a meal and a beer while watching the sunset once underway. Often we meet interesting people. Then when we wake up in the morning, we’re pulling into port in Iloilo.

    We normally travel that way to Cebu and Manila when needed. This also gives us the chance to stock up on items not available on this island with no shipping/luggage charges 🙂

  2. I like Cebu Pacific. Flown them a bunch in PI and from Cebu to Bangkok. The prices are good, especially if you grab a promo price. Also, while no one refunds anymore, they do credit you (at least they used to) if you need to cancel or change flights. Of course they ding you, so you end up with .50 on the dollar – but that’s better than other airlines.

    Their games are fun, the Flight Attendants cute, etc. I am not 6′ so the leg room isn’t an issue for me. I have had the gate changed a couple times, but I have had that happen with American carriers as well. I think that between PA and CP you actually have decent options in the Philippines.

  3. Dave, if you fly internationally with PAL, you usually earn enough frequent flyer miles (Mabuhay Miles) to get two free domestic flights. So you would be able to fly for free from Iloilo to Manila return.

  4. Kal is what I have always flown there on, and have been pretty content with them also. I am in VA, so its about a 22hour flight total for me, 13 hours to Inchon. 2 times I have had gate changes at Inchon, and each time its always been at the opposite end of the airport, and its along walk, but its also a little over a 3 hour layover, so its something to do. For me the best part has been they have always left the middle seats unoccupied, so that gives a little room to stretch out sideways. Its usually about $300 cheaper to fly into to Manila than to Cebu, so usually the point of entry is Manila. I may try Emirates or Qatar next time, there rates have been cheaper lately, but the flight is a little longer to Dubai and then 8hours to Manila, so may pay a little more and use KAL again. Just now checked Kayak and ANA has fights to Manila for $867 but from Dulles to Manila is 2 stops and 60 hours total travel time one way, dont think I will be taking that one.

    Cebu Pacific is the only local airline there we have ever flown on, no real complaints to speak of so far, except as Rease said, they really hit you for baggage charges at check-in. We started having Bing’s brother book the flights when they are having promo’s (which seem to be all the time) so the fares are cheaper that way.

    If we ever get moved there, the ferry sounds like a good way to travel as long as no typhoon is in the area, and the ferry doesn’t sink, or is overloaded.

  5. Dave,
    I would agree PAL is better than Cebu Pacific for reasons you mentioned. We usually fly All Nippon when we fly to the States. They are pretty good plus they give free beer/wine as a bonus for the Economy seats. Would like to try Korean Air since i have heard nothing but positive things about them. We will be making our flight plans soon for our upcoming flight to the States. See what kind of deal we can get. Thats a good idea by Rease to fly than take a ferry back. Never thought of that. Your right we have nothing but time. They were talking to the President of Cebu Pacific awhile back on tv and he said he went to the States and observed the way Southwest Air Works so he could model Cebu Pacific like that. Saw yesterday on the news they are supposed to upgrade Iloilo Airport in the next couple of years.

  6. we always fly on ana airlines from Chicago with a 2 1/2 layover in japan. service is always great. and the price is $878.00 per person round trip. one thing I always make sure I fly into terminal 3 do not like the other terminals.
    as far as domestic when there we like Cebu pacific no thrills but no longer then the flights are who cares.

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