Review: Cebu Pacific A330 Manila to Hong Kong

While our flight to Manila was on a fun, quirky A320, our flight back was on a high-density A330. I was excited to try this flight, mainly so I could try out what 3-3-3 economy would feel like on an A330, but also since I was intrigued by Cebu Pacific’s branding and service structure on the outbound, and curious to see how it would be executed on a flight with almost 250% the number of passengers.

With that, we arrived at Manila Airport’s Terminal 3 check-in hall after a tedious 7 hours of traveling, consisting of a couple of bus rides as well as a two-hour boat ride from Calapan to Batangas. A few rows of seats were dedicated to our group, where our actual seat was assigned based on check-in order. I was ninth to check in, so received a window seat on the right-hand side of the aircraft, which I mistook as a middle seat since it was a J seat (most airlines assign the letter K to their window seats).

Manila Airport Cebu Pacific Check-in Hall

While we weren’t eligible for this as we booked the flight as a group, it was interesting to see Cebu Pacific’s self-check-in kiosks.

Manila Airport Cebu Pacific Self Check-in

Immigration wasn’t organised (the lines to the booths were wide, so there was a cluster of people in each line as opposed to a single-file line), though there weren’t that many people so it was a painless process. Soon we found ourselves in the departures hall, where we had around two hours to spare before boarding.

Manila Airport Departures Hall

We spotted a Wendy’s peering down at us from the level above, but unfortunately it was connected to the domestic terminal, so we couldn’t access it as we were airside internationally. Still, from the upper level we had great views of the concourse. Manila Airport isn’t the most beautiful airport by any means, but it’s functional on the most part, and I do find it fascinating that within hours all the people we were looking at would be scattered around the world.

Manila Airport Departures Hall

Fernando and I decided to head to the gate so I could get some work done. Unfortunately my fussy computer wouldn’t connect to the airport WiFi, so I hooked my computer up to my (incredibly slow) 4G hotspot and got a little revision done for an exam the next morning.

Manila Airport Departures Hall

Soon an aircraft rolled past, which I believe was our A330 to Hong Kong.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Manila Airport

Also parked in the vicinity was another Cebu Pacific A330 in a different livery (I know we didn’t take this plane as ours didn’t feature the new livery).

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Manila Airport

While the views from one side of the airport were partially obstructed, the views from the other side of the airport were much clearer, and also full of Cebu Pacific aircraft.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A320 Manila Airport

While we were initially assigned gate 108, the airport silently switched our gate to gate 107, so we had to hoard all our friends over to the new gate. Boarding started with the back rows, though unfortunately we never heard our row in the mix as it was announced first when we weren’t really paying attention, so we ended up boarding last, as is usually the case when I fly with school.

On a side note, my schoolbag broke from me trying to fit my Economics textbook into it prior to the flight. I tied it shut with a piece of string, which was an adequate short-term solution, and didn’t use the overhead bin, in case the items in my bag spilled everywhere. While it didn’t hinder the quality of the flight, it wasn’t the best start to our (otherwise great) flight.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Manila Airport

Cebu Pacific Flight 118
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Origin: Manila (MNL) Gate: 107 Dep: 15:45 (16:15)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 204 Arr: 18:20 
(18:45)
Duration: 2 hr 35 min (2 hr 30 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 45G (Economy Class)

We boarded through door L2, so to our left was a clear view of the first 12 rows of economy class. While most airlines fit maybe 30-45 business class seats between doors 1 and 2 on the A330, Cebu Pacific manages to fit 108 economy seats in the same area.

When pointing me towards my seat, I was advised that my bag was open. We both had a laugh over how I tied my bag shut with a piece of string.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

We were signalled right as we were seated in the rearmost cabin of the A330. The middle cabin is the largest, featuring 183 seats.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class

The rearmost cabin features 145 seats. All of Cebu Pacific’s A330 seats are 16.5 inches wide and laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class

I was assigned the right window seat in row 45, seat 45J. I found the seat very cramped and wasn’t looking forward to spending two hours in it. Fortunately I was seated next to my friends Pak San and Matthew – Matthew was seated in the aisle and offered to switch so he could look out of the window.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Seats 45G, H, J

While the aisle seat was still tight, I could spill over into the aisle, so I didn’t find the aisle seat as cramped as the middle and window seats. I would strongly recommend picking an aisle seat if you’re flying a longhaul flight on Cebu Pacific’s A330, even if you have to pay for it (Cebu Pacific can operate this A330 on 10-hour flights to Riyadh – ouch!).

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

The legroom was similar to what I’d experienced on the A320 – apparently there’s an extra inch, though it was unnoticeable.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Legroom

As is the norm for economy seats, the tray table folded down from the seat in front, and was sturdy enough for my paperwork on the flight.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Tray Table

Also, much like on the A330, the airline’s logo was imprinted into the back of every seat. However, unlike the A320, the plane didn’t feature advertisements of any sort (aren’t they missing out, since they’d be able to sell 436 seatback ads otherwise?).

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Logo Imprint

Our aircraft was a bit over three years old, and featured the new Airbus interiors. I’m glad to report that the aircraft was in perfect condition.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Passenger Service Unit

It was a beautiful day in Manila, so we had great views of the taxiway even when there weren’t any aircraft passing by.

Views from Gate Manila Airport

Prior to pushback I decided to use the lavatory, which was spotless, for the most part.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Lavatory

From the lavatory, I also got a clear view of the cabin from the back. 436 seats is a lot – in comparison, Korean Air’s A380s feature 407 seats, so Cebu Pacific’s A330s feature more seats than Korean Air’s A380s. We weren’t traveling during peak season and the flight was nearly full, so I can’t imagine how profitable the plane must be during a full load.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

The captain came onto the PA to announce our flight time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Our flight left the gate a little late, and were further delayed on the tarmac due to a long queue for takeoff. After waiting for a while, the captain apologised that we were “taking quite some time”, and gave us a very clear update that we were first in line for takeoff on runway 06, which I appreciated (especially as an aviation geek).

Taxiing Manila Airport

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin Upon Takeoff

Finally, at 4:40 PM, we were airborne, and got beautiful views over Manila during our long takeoff roll (as you’d expect for a 436-seat A330).

Takeoff Manila Airport

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, though my breath was taken by the mesmerising transition from the small houses of Manila to the mountainous outskirts of the city.

Takeoff Manila Airport

Takeoff Manila Airport

Takeoff Manila Airport

Takeoff Manila Airport

Takeoff Manila Airport

At this point I decided to have a look at the buy-on-board menu, which I noticed was in the seat pocket in front. The best thing about Cebu Pacific is that you can pay with cash, whereas so many other airlines only accept payment from credit cards.

We had access to a large selection of buns – the menu is beautiful.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

We were also given a selection of various types of cup noodles, as well as a selection of drinks. I appreciated that everything was reasonably priced.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

There was even liquor for sale, which I’m sure some people would enjoy!

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

Since we were traveling with school and they booked our flight, we didn’t have access to this, but those with access to their own booking references could choose from a wider selection of hot meals, those also looked beautiful on the menu, and seemed easy enough to execute.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Menu

I was probably most intrigued by the merchandise selection. I really wanted to get myself a Cebu Pacific A320 model, a fun blanket, a sleep kit, or the stuffed toy plushy (in retrospect, I really should’ve gone for that plushy, which would’ve made my Christmas present for my sister, or Jason, much easier).

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Merchandise Menu

The only thing I initially ended up getting myself was a pork floss bun, though upon smelling the cup noodles my seatmates got and getting incredibly peckish, I got one of those too. Pak San had a 1000 PHP bill to break, so we shared the payment. The flight attendant serving our aisle was a superstar, keeping on top of the calculations, waiting for us to finalise our decisions before giving us an accurate amount of change, and being nice and all smiles about my indecisiveness the entire time.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Meal – Pork Floss Bun

By indecisiveness, I really meant my desire to get the rainbow bagel, which seemed like the one thing I should’ve got onboard this flight. Fortunately Pak San wanted a rainbow bagel and was nice enough to let me have a bite – I wouldn’t order it again, but it was a fun gimmicky food item for Cebu Pacific to sell (which fits its branding perfectly), and it wasn’t terrible by any means.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Meal – Rainbow Bagel

In the meantime the cabin crew hosted a trivia session. I’ve shared my thoughts on the trivia session in the outbound review, so won’t do so again. Once again, we were tested on acronyms, with Cebu Pacific merchandise as prizes – the acronyms given were OOTD (outfit of the day) and NVM (nevermind).

After the meal I had to release my unicorn manure from the rainbow bagel use the bathroom, so took a few more cabin pictures while I was at it.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

The cabin views got even better when the setting sun shone right through the windows into the cabin ceiling.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin Upon Sunset

Since I switched to an aisle seat without realising that I’d miss out on an incredible sunset, I asked the flight attendants if I could stick my camera lens out of the door hatch window, which they agreed to.

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

You could even see the moon, which was stunning.

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Soon the sunset views got even better. I was jealous that I wasn’t seated on the left side, though was happy that I had the option of taking pictures through the door window.

Meanwhile both my camera batteries were almost drained, so I asked the flight attendant if I could charge in the galley (it was a big ask, though otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get as many sunset photos as I did). I wasn’t expecting her to oblige, but much to my surprise, she did, so kudos to her. At the same time, she reminded me not to tell anyone else about it, since she didn’t want everyone rampaging over to the galley to charge their electronics. I had to flick a lever to activate the power going towards the power port – I doubt I’d be able to tamper with those on a plane anymore.

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

I’ll let the sunset photos speak for themselves…

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Moon Enroute to Hong Kong

Soon we were advised to go back to our seats (one thing Cebu Pacific does is they tell everyone to be seated for landing a little bit too early, so on both flights I found myself seated with my electronics packed around 15 minutes before the seatbelt sign was actually switched on for landing), so the best I could do was to get shots out of the windows on the left side of the plane.

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Sunset Enroute to Hong Kong

Since all my things were packed and I still had a while with noting to do, I started taking shots of the cabin from weird angles.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

Soon we were landing into Hong Kong, though did it over the sea, so I wasn’t able to capture great shots.

Landing into Hong Kong Airport

At this point my camera completely ran out of battery on all counts, so I relied on my phone to take pictures of adjacent aircraft when walking to the baggage reclamation area. We parked at the Midfield Terminal, which afforded us a rather nice walkway to a two-stop ride towards immigration and baggage reclaim.

Hong Kong Airport Midfield Terminal Arrivals Hall

While the entire arrivals experience was painless, unfortunately a friend left his passport and ID card on the plane. The airline quickly called him to tell him that he’d left his documents, so he made his way back towards the Midfield Terminal. I’m sure he appreciated Cebu Pacific’s quick response to his, um, rather important documents.

Bottom Line: Cebu Pacific A330 Experience

There’s no two ways about the fact that Cebu Pacific’s A330 is a cramped experience. I moved around the plane a bit so I could socialise, and the aisles were tight, as expected. We were probably louder than we needed to be, which didn’t help with the passenger experience either. I would actively avoid flying a Cebu Pacific A330 on a 10-hour flight, such as from Manila to Riyadh. In other words, it’s no Cathay Pacific economy class.

However, I liked everything else about Cebu Pacific. I liked the extensive choice of meals (though wish I could’ve sampled some of the hot options), the trivia session is a fun addition to their branding, and the entire service culture at the airline is fun and uplifting. The airline is a refreshing addition to the industry, and manages to hold up its own brand despite being low-cost, which I really appreciate.

I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fly Cebu Pacific again on short flights, though would aim to fly the A320, especially if I was traveling alone. Were I stuck on a Cebu Pacific A330 again, I’d be sure to select an aisle seat, which offers the least cramped experience.

For those of you who’ve flown both 777s with a 3-4-3 configuration and A330s with a 3-3-3 configuration in economy, how do you think Cebu Pacific’s A330 measures up against 10-abreast 777 economy products?

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