Cebu International "This Airport is so Ridiculous"
Trip Start Jan 27, 2013
25Trip End Feb 01, 2013
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Coming in to land at Cebu was interesting from the air as there were small islands many of which were ringed by glowing coral reefs. In one strange instance there was a giant coral reef which looked like an island but the actual island is a small land mass with dwellings in its centre.
If I were staying in Cebu it would be interesting to go exploring these places by boat or diving, which most people usually do here.
On descent many high rises were visible. Cebu is probably one of the most famous and popular tourist destinations and a haven for holiday makers unlike Zamboanga which I had just visited.
The skyline had so many high rise buildings and was much more developed than the other parts of the Philippines I had visited on Mindanao island.
On the tarmac they were handing out umbrellas, which I thought were gifts, but they were only to cover yourself from the sun. They collect them back before entering the airport building.
I had arrived at the domestic terminal and needed to transfer to the international terminal. Even though I could see the connecting doorway that was only for staff. I had to exit out thru the normal waiting arrivals zone and walk back outside to the international terminal.
Then you have to go thru a security screening to enter the terminal building. They also had some cafes and money changers here so I decided to exchange my leftover 1540P leftover notes which came to $35 USD. I also had enough coins left to buy a water bottle once I cleared security.
When I did my online check in it said I could just print my boarding card and head to the departures gate. There were no printers in any of the internet cafes I had checked in. I thought I could just ask at the Cebu Pacific counter.
It was only about 10am and when I cleared security to go into the international terminal there was nobody at the Cebu counter. The next international Cebu Pacific flight was my flight to Busan at 2.30pm. I asked one of the workers who said the counter would open 2 hours before departure.
Also I noticed they were weighing all hand luggage before heading to passport control. Futhermore, before passport control you have to pay 550P ($14) departure tax.
I was quite shocked by this. At Cagayan de Oro I paid 30P, at Zamboanga it was 40P, and at Manilla they didnt even charge us. Now it had suddenly jumped to 550P???! This was another instance of overcharging the 'stupid foreigner' because they think we are just minted.
I had exchanged all my Filipino Pesos and only had US dollars now. Did I have to go and change them back? The worker told me I could pay in US dollars and I hoped they would give me change back.
Now I needed my boarding card to get thru. There was nobody at the Cebu counter until 2 hours before the 2.30pm flight. They had no ticket office despite this being their international hub, yet there was a ticket office for Silk Air??
I needed to go back to the domestic terminal to find someone from Cebu Pacific to talk to. This would mean exiting security, going thru security to enter domestic and exiting back out, and going thru security again to come back into the international terminal.
I went to the connecting doorway and asked the lady if I could just go thru since I needed to talk to Cebu and there were no representatives in the international terminal. Thankfully she let me thru.
When I spoke to somebody from Cebu she said it was an international departure and I would have to go back to the international terminal. This was ridiculous why nobody could just print the boarding card when my online booking said I could print it and go directly to the departure gate. Even the check in kiosks had error messages.
They didnt seem too 'customer friendly' and were chatting with other staff members so reluctantly I went back to the international terminal. Fortunately I went back thru the staff doorway rather than having to go all the way thru security again.
Now we had to wait till 12.30 for them to open the check in desk and for me to get my boarding card. There were no stores inside the terminal so I only had my 3/4 drank water bottle to last me.
This flight only had Koreans and we started forming lines. I was speaking to one of them and telling them in hangul 'nappayo gonghang' (bad airport) to which they smiled and agreed.
When the check in staff arrived for 12.30 they sat there putting on make up and said they would open at 1pm. Even the Koreans were getting upset when the counter is supposed to open 2 hours prior to departure.
About 12.45 they opened the counters and I got my boarding card in less than a minute. Then we thought we could goto passport control but were in for a surprise.
Before going to passport control there was a guy weighing each piece of hand luggage. I had to take things out just to get it to 7kg. My winter jacket alone weighed 1kg and I took out all my chargers, phone, keys to get the weight even lower.
However when he was distracted I walked past to the counter for departure tax. I told them I only had US dollars, gave $15, and asked if they would give change back. Fortunately I got the $1 change back.
Now the door to passport control was closed. The staff member said the door would open at 1pm. So even if I had my boarding card this morning I still wouldnt have been able to go thru and would had to have waited for my flight.
I said quite loud "This Airport is so Ridiculous'"! A staff member walking by heard me and turned around. She asked what my flight was, and when I said Cebu Pacific she said I had to wait. I was tempted to reply "thats why this airport is so ridiculous" but didnt want to make too much of a scene in case they deny me boarding.
So we all formed a queue waiting for the doors to passport control to open. When they did I rushed thru looking for a store to buy water. There were no stores anywhere. What kind of an airport is this??
I saw a worker drinking from a bottle so asked where they got it. They told me there was a store so I looked for it. When I got there I was even more shocked by their prices.
A water bottle cost 50P ($1.25) when everywhere outside including both Zamboanga and Manilla Airports were selling them for 15P. Even a coke can was 160P ($4). I asked if they had fountains to fill a bottle like in other airports but they said no.
I held my hands in the air and said quite loud this time for everybody to hear "This Whole Airport is so ridiculous"!! The Korean guy I was chatting with started laughing. Even inside the terminal building there were no other places to get food or exchange money once you had come thru the first security clearing to enter the departures terminal.
This was the first chance you had to get something to drink after being held like a prisoner in the terminal holding pens. The staff apologized "I'm sorry sir but our prices are so high because the rents are so high". I had exchanged all my money and was left with what I thought was enough coins to buy a water bottle.
Desperate for a drink I gave them one US dollar which was 40P and a 10P coin to total 50P, which they accepted.
Then when I went to use the washroom there was a cockroach running in the sink. My same Korean friend was there so I pointed the roach out to him which he was disgusted with.
This is just the most bizzare airport I have had the misfortune to transit thru. You might expect all this ridiculous rules and procedures in a military or communist style country but this was the Philippines.
This is a major international terminal where you'd expect them to temper things down a bit. Manilla was nothing like this and I was able to transfer from International to Domestic with no problems, and paid no departure tax. Doesnt Cebu get rated in airport surveys?
I know for a fact I will never transit thru Cebu again and will deliberately go out of my way to avoid it. The city seemed too commercial anyway with many resort style hotels having desks in the arrivals hall and outside.
The other Silk Air flight was entirely full of Europeans. It seems too touristy and too full of westerners for my liking. My Korean friend I made said he was on the beach for 7 days and got bored.
After the 'night of terror' and breakfast drama this was the worst 12 hours and finale to an otherwise enjoyable two weeks in Taiwan and the Philippines.
Thankfully we were able to board my flight without any more incident and I was en route home, and to a decent nights sleep in my own bed.
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