Cebu Pacific flight review: Melbourne-Manila

I pop the cherry on Cebu Pacific's first Melbourne-Manila flight.

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Blue and yellow balloons decorate the Cebu Pacific check-in counter at Melbourne Airport. The line snakes long and there's a certain buzz in the air.

It's the Filipino airline's inaugural flight out of Melbourne, making it the only low-cost carrier to offer seats between the Victorian capital and Manila – and I've been invited to fill a seat on that maiden voyage and see what all the fuss is about.

Cebu Pacific flight details

  • Route: Melbourne-Manila
  • Duration: 7 hours, 10 minutes
  • Flight Number(s): 5J 50
  • Aircraft Type: A333
  • Dates Travelled: 14 August 2018
  • Class: Economy (Cebu Pacific doesn't have different seat classes so service is equal for everybody)
  • Frequent Flyer Program: None

Stephanie's Cebu Pacific rating

★★★★☆

  • Low-cost fares from as little as $189 each way or under $300 return
  • Friendly staff with a casual though professional demeanour
  • Generous seat pitch
  • Night flights out of Melbourne, ideal for getting a good night's rest
  • Cebu is working toward becoming a more sustainable airline
  • No entertainment options – be prepared and download Netflix beforehand
  • Limited on-board meals mean its recommended you pre-order

What did I like?

  • Cost and speed. Outside of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific is the only airline currently offering direct, non-stop flights between Melbourne and Manila. And with prices starting from $169 each way or less than $300 return, it's also one of the most cost-effective ways to visit the nation from Victoria.
  • Friendly staff and good service. Bright, casual uniforms were matched with friendly smiles and excellent service. My pre-ordered meal was delivered within moments of take-off and dishes were removed before I even realised, allowing me to settle in for the lengthy journey.
  • Generous seat pitch. At a time where I'm noticing seat space diminish on budget airlines, Cebu offered more than ample legroom for my needs. Being 156cm tall, that's not saying much, but the lady sitting next to me who was almost 30cm taller had no complaints about her legroom, either.
  • Night flights out of Melbourne. Flights are currently scheduled out of Melbourne Airport at 5.05pm, or 6.05pm during daylight savings times, virtually allowing you to fall asleep in Australia and wake up in Manila just after midnight, local time.
  • Environmentally conscious. My journey was peppered with reminders of Cebu Pacific's efforts to become a more environmentally-conscious and sustainable airline. From 1 October, it's shifting to using recyclable, eco-friendly utensils across its fleet and is actively encouraging passengers to make a pledge via its Juan Effect initiative toward more sustainable holiday habits.


What didn’t I like?

  • No in-flight entertainment options. While lack of entertainment onboard is standard with budget airlines, many often give you the option to hire a tablet to access its suite. This is not the case with Cebu Pacific, which has removed the option altogether leaving you to your own devices – literally. If you need it, download your shows or bring a book to stave off boredom in the air.
  • No hot meals to purchase on board. Hot meals are exclusive to pre-order with few options outside of cup noodles and chocolate pretzels to purchase in-flight. If you feel you might get hungry over the 8 hours, or haven't prepared enough snack food, adding a meal is a must before checking into your flight. Sizes are reasonable by budget airline standards though if you tend to smash through a pub-sized steak and chips I'd recommend purchasing two at the same time to appease your grumbling stomach.
  • Far departure gate. It's the curse of every low cost carrier that the gate should be the furthest possible and Cebu Pacific is no different, calling in at gate 20. Out of 20. It's not a long walk by any means and there are travelators along the way if you tire easily but it’s something to factor in when considering how much time you'll need to get to the gate and board your flight.

Would I use Cebu Pacific again?

With cheap and direct flights up its sleeve, coupled with above-standard service, Cebu Pacific would be top of my list for airlines out of Melbourne if I were running a tight budget.

Stephanie Yip travelled from Melbourne to Manila, Philippines as a guest of Cebu Pacific.

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