November 28, 2007

FLYING THE IRRITATING SKIES

To say that I am a frequent traveler is an understatement. In a year my travel cycle has its peaks and lows, but on average I am on a plane 4 times a month, which makes the quiet time spent on a plane, thinking or reading, a crucial part of my sanity. I landed in Shanghai early morning (1 am), jostled, harassed, and tense—thanks entirely to the wonderful “Making every Juan fly” experience, which started with an extremely inefficient and slow ticketing system at the old NAIA airport. I would compare yesterday’s flight to domestic Chinese flights in the late 90’s, except in place of smelly cages of chickens and produce; we have oversized bags filled with durian, old sandwiches, and dried squid. Where my seatmates used to chew noisily on “butong pakwan” they are now tossing cans of sprite and half eaten oatmeal bars within the cabin. Economically speaking, as the margin on air fares shrink, so does the distance between seats. Some of us like that feeling of circulation in our lower extremities, so we opt to lean to the extreme left or right, so we can steal a part of the aisle. A trick that works well until the trolley or neighboring foot tromps across your Italian shoes. Note to the airline companies: Yes. Passengers DO notice that 1 extra inch you skimped.

I am a hardened traveler. I spent my teens backpacking the darkest armpits of our planet, and my 20’s shuttling between cities for work. My Jedi conditioning can keep me asleep through a bloody volcano eruption. Cebu Pacific can be proud to note that it is one of the few modes of transportation that can keep me on edge the entire length of the trip. It’s a pity really as the planes are all brand new and the $300 round trip ticket to Shanghai, is very attractive when you can spend as much as $490 for a China Southern and $570 for PAL. It may have been a rough night (a Chinese tour group of rowdy guys filled the majority of the plane). Even the cabin attendants looked flustered. Sadly, it will remain one of those “life questions.” As of today, I am returning to the old stalwart of Philippines – China flights, PAL. The planes are not quite as new, the tickets not quite as reasonable, but if it gives me the 4 hours I need to catch up with my reading and thoughts, it’s worth it.

2 comments:

izZanie s0riAno said...

I would have to agree - cheaper flights are likely more stressful! Cebu pacific's low airfare rates and fleet of brand new planes may seem very enticing, especially to practical travelers. Being a frequent traveler myself, I've seen how Cebu Pacific's transformed flying from being a privilege to irritating. Come to think of it, their marketing did not really harp on comfort from the onset. It's to make flying accessible to practically everyone. Sorry to say but even to the most annoying passengers - "it's time everyone flies". Whereas, PAL's marketing says, "it's all about (the) experience". True that costs are a bit more expensive but worth it for those who believe in value for money.

The Jolly Jetsetter said...

Absolutely. I suppose it was inevitable for Cebu Pacific. As a low cost carrier they need to cram as many seats into the plane while cutting on many amenities and services that might raise overhead unnecessarily. It makes good business sense for them. For you and I, perhaps we should save a bit more and just fly PAL.