By Joshua Young
Hi, this is Josh, and I’m hopping on Hershey’s blog for a bit. I’ve done a little bit of traveling here and there, up to two months backpacking in Eastern Europe, among others. Hershey’s been encouraging me to blog for quite some time, but I’ve always been a lazy writer. Anyway, I thought of writing this post after realizing that Hershey has never booked a seat sale fare before—I figured that you could also use a little advice. So here goes!
March 3 has come and gone. You’ve heard about the Cebu Pacific piso fare, but ended up empty handed, or even frustrated when you didn’t find the sale seats. If you were not able to book a flight to your dream destination last March 3, don’t fret—there are a lot of other sales coming up.
This post is mainly for beginners, but experienced weekend warriors could still pick up a thing or two (scroll straight to the end if you already know the basics!). With the useful tips we’ll give, we’re confident you can score a bunch of great deals. Our tricks are mostly for applicable for piso sales, but if you apply the principles behind them, you’ll be sure to snag low fares on other sales.
Here’s a photo of Hershey and me traveling Europe! We love exploring the world together.
What is a Piso Sale?
First things first. What’s a piso sale and how do they match up against “normal” sales? Here’s a table to highlight the differences.
But after searching for flights to a specific destination on the date you chose, how do you know if it’s really a piso fare? You’ll have to check the base fare to be sure. Find the base fare by going to the right side of the screen and clicking on the FLY tab. We’ve put some screenshots below to make it easier to understand. Just check out the red boxes on this Marinduque to Manila flight on August 21:
By clicking on the tab, we’ve found out that the base fare for the flight is 499. That’s exactly what Cebu Pacific promised in their promo today!
Base fare and all-in fare
Wait a second, you ask. I thought I’d get a flight for 499. Why are they charging me over 1k?
Well, the promo fares Cebu Pacific publishes almost always refers only to the base fare. In this situation, it’s 499. That’s just the cost of the seat. You still need to pay for the web admin fee, fuel charges, and taxes. Most of these taxes and fees are fixed and beyond the airline’s control, btw. These bring your all-in fare to 1,004.28 Pesos.
Preparation is key
When going for piso sales, preparation is everything. You want to book as many flights as your credit card allows. But when thousands of eager passengers load the website in quick succession, things slow down drastically. In times like these, fortune favors the ready.
So how can you prepare for a super sale like 3.3? Well, there’s only so much you can do, but every little bit gives you an advantage over the average passenger. We’ll break this down into several sections.
1. (General) knowledge is power(ful).
This is cliché but true! Here are some things everyone needs to know.
All sales have…
- A specific route (or routes). This is easy to understand. When the company announces a sale to Dumaguete only, don’t try looking for sale tickets to Cebu. (Exception to the rule: sometimes, all routes will be on sale, but that’s once in a blue moon.)
- A limited number of seats. In an airplane with 150 seats, perhaps only 10 will be on sale. The airline needs to make money! Cebu Pacific now gives us the total number of seats on sale, per route. (This helps us plan ahead, more on it later.)
- A sale period. Unsold sale seats disappear after the time is up. Piso sales are usually good for two days, but the earlier you start, the better.
- A travel period. Specific dates will be on sale—you’ll need to find them by looking in the right month. If the travel period begins in September 30 and ends in February 29, just ignore all the dates before and after that.
- Expensive dates. Though there are no black-out dates, Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Holy Week will still be expensive times to travel. Local festivals will also drive prices up, even though the dates are covered by the travel period.
- No promo code (almost always).
2. But specific knowledge is even more powerful.
These are a few items you should work out on your own.
Travel plans. List down your destination and preferred travel dates and times. Look at the season, ideal length of stay, and visa requirements too. Jot down your backup destinations as well to save time. Have your companions’ details on hand too. (Pro tip: book in groups of two to four to score the good deals. If you search flights for six persons in one go, the airline website usually directs you to the expensive fares.)
Flight schedules. Checking out flight schedules in advance is a big plus. For example, if you know that the Manila to Incheon flight arrives at 22:25, you can go straight to booking the Friday night flight on a long weekend, instead of looking first at the scheds. And if you already know that there’s no flights to Beijing on M/W/F, you’ll plan around that limitation.
Leave days. If possible, plan your vacation leaves in advance and calendar the national and local holidays. For example, August 19 (Mon) is Quezon City Day, and August 21 (Wed) is Ninoy Day. People working in QC can use VL on Tuesday and have a five-day weekend from August 17-21!
Usual fares. Do you ever get bored and open airline websites to check their usual fares, just for the heck of it? It helps you get a good idea of what are the usual fare prices. From there, you can guess what a good deal would be, and what an amazing steal would look like. (We’ll probably write more about this in a future blog post.)
Need for speed. Piso fares are free-for-all affairs. It’s like an online melee where everyone tries to grab whatever they can during a bar fight, and the one who threw the first punch wins. We’re not kidding! That’s why it pays to be early. People on the site at the stroke of midnight end up getting half a dozen deals, while it’s hit or miss for those logging on at 1am. Starting the next day? Maybe don’t bother…
Piso sales usually happen on holidays, so keep your eyes peeled. December 24 is an annual event for us! There’s also airline anniversaries, Easter, Independence Day, New Year’s, and the Day of Valor.
A selfie with a quokka in Rottnest Island, Australia. Did you know that quokkas are considered the happiest animals in the world?
3. A good Internet connection puts you ahead.
- Speed and reliability are top priority here. If need be, ditch the glitchy connection in the condo and hit the nearest Internet café. (If you want those cheap fares, you need to show some dedication!) Based on personal experience, desktop/laptops are also better than mobile browsers like Safari.
4. But GetGo memberships get you moving faster.
- Sometimes, we end up finding the perfect flight (say, Manila to Tokyo for 2.5k round trip) but end up getting the dreaded error when we try to process payment. Most likely, the seat went to someone who finished the booking before you did. To increase your chances of getting great deals, sign up for GetGo. By adding the details of your credit card and guest list (traveling companions) beforehand, you speed up the process by a few minutes. (In the piso fare universe, that’s like one light year.) Did we mention that GetGo members have special access to some sales?
Whew! Okay, so that’s about it. Before we end, we’ve noticed some new features that piloted in Cebu Pacific’s 3.3 sale. Here’s the lowdown on:
New format – The March piso sale was in a new, innovative format—you can only book specific destinations within a two-hour period. This allows you to plan for the places you want to visit. Since there are fewer visitors on the website, it limits your competition, too.
New waiting area – In order to manage web traffic, the company created a waiting room for people visiting the site. It’s like lining up at any government office, except shorter. During 3.3, we never experienced a wait longer than five minutes.
New viewing style – Previous piso sales would show you prices from seven entire days: the day you selected, three days before, and three days after. (There’s a screen grab below with that same view.) But on the day of the seat sale, you could only check prices one day at a time, nothing more.
I suspect that by moving from the week view to the single-day view, Cebu Pacific is making the process of finding fare seats a bit more challenging for everyone. But don’t despair! Here’s how you can maximize time if you’re given the one-day view.
Let’s say that you’re planning a flight to Taipei from May 24-27, and you have a flexible schedule. After putting those dates in and hitting the search button, you find that both dates have expensive flights.
The best thing to do is to change both dates at the same time, so the website only loads once but you get two new results for the outbound and inbound flights. So you try May 25 and 28, or May 23 and 28. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are good for those dates. Have a pen and paper ready to jot down the sale dates you find—you might use them later.
Another thing is that once you’ve successfully booked a flight, you get sent back to the waiting area even though your 20 minutes aren’t up yet. During 3.3, I found this a bit annoying. I decided to search for different routes first, before proceeding to book. After I got booked a flight to Cagayan de Oro, I got sent to the end of the line. But when my turn came, I immediately keyed in the exact dates for my Zamboanga trip.
Last but not the least, remember to click “Proceed without add ons” if you prefer no-frills travel. That means no seat selection, no inflight meal, no insurance, and no checked baggage. Just spend that money when you arrive at your destination!
At an old chateau in France
The #CEBSuperSeatFest promo video actually pointed out that 3.3 was a piso fare day, I just didn’t notice until… five days afterward. Too late to give you the scoop, unfortunately. The video also highlighted everyday between now and March 31. So you can expect a seat sale every single day till then!
I believe that March will bring a bunch of great deals, mixed with average deals that would work only for specific people or routes.
For sure, as stated in the press release, there’s going to be:
- P100 off on inflight meals
- 40% discount on baggage allowance
- Up to 42% discount on hotel+flight rates (ongoing!)
There will likely be:
- Deals for long weekends
- More group deals like the PLUSJUAN 5+1 sale earlier this month.
- More new destinations like the Marinduque route formally announced yesterday. These include: Daet (Camarines Norte), Mati (Davao Oriental), Bantayan Island (Cebu), San Vicente (Palawan), Siquijor, Lal-Lo (Cagayan), Marinduque, Maasin (Southern Leyte), and Bislig (Surigao Del Sur). This list is based on the Cebu Pacific crowdsourcing of most-requested destinations last year.
As Cebu Pacific is now promoting its membership in the Value Alliance more explicitly now, I’m guessing that they’ll maximize the sale to promote routes outside the Cebu Pacific map. The Value Alliance is a group of low-cost carriers in the Asia-Pacific:
- Europe (Berlin, Athens, and other routes) with Scoot based in Singapore
- Maldives, Southern India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, also with Scoot
- China coast and interior (Xi’an, Nanjing, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang) w/ NokScoot in Bangkok
- Thailand with Nok Air, also based in Bangkok
- South Korea with Jeju Air, with hubs in Seoul and Jeju Island
- They might also increase coverage in Japan (Sapporo, Okinawa, Amami, Hakodate, Ishigaki) with Vanilla Air, although this airline is currently merging with another, so this one is more of a question mark.
That’s all I got for now! Please don’t hesitate to comment if you have anything to add. Till next time,