Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to avoid hidden charges when booking online on Cebu Pacific, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines

Have you tried booking online? Are you one of those surprised that the cost of the ticket increases every time you click the "continue" or "next" buttons? That's because of the many unnecessary or hidden add-ons that some airline companies automatically select for you when you book your tickets online. So here's a guide on how to opt out of the automatically-selected add-ons when booking on Cebu Pacific, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines.

CEBU PACIFIC (5J) AND TIGERAIR PHILIPPINES (DG)
Cebu Pacific has the most automatic add-ons when you book online. That amounts to between Php1000 to 2000 in additional charges which you may not need or want. There are a lot of steps to follow to get rid of them. After selecting your flight schedule and fares, you will be asked to fill-out your details. Below your details are the first set of add-ons.

1. Remove (if you don't need it) or lessen baggage allowance
Cebu Pacific's first automatic add-on is baggage allowance. For a round-trip domestic ticket, 20kg is automatically selected at Php336 per way for a total of Php672 both ways. You can lessen this to 15kg or remove it totally if you only need the free 7kg carry-on bag.

To remove it, just click "no thanks" or select "I have no bags to check-in, only carry-on luggage" from the drop-down menu. To lessen it, select 15kg in the drop-down menu.

Do the same for the return flight. Click on "no thanks" or lessen it to 15kg.

You know the baggage allowance is removed if under both drop-down menus, you see in red: "Are you sure you will not be bringing checked baggage on the flight?"

But remember, they will weigh your check-in bag to make sure it is only 7kg. If you go beyond that, you will be required to check-in the bag at a more expensive price.

Always remember that they are very strict with baggage allowance. If you go beyond what you purchased, even if it's just 1 or 2kg over, expect to be charged extra at the airport. So estimate the amount of luggage you will bring.

Tip: It's best to add baggage a few days before your trip. In fact, you can add baggage on CEB up to 4 hours before your flight. When the trip is near, you can better estimate how much you need. And if you don't push through with the trip, at least you don't waste money on forfeited baggage allowance which is non-refundable.

2. Remove pre-ordered meals
On international flights, CEB automatically selects pre-ordered meals for you. And it's an expensive Php350 per meal on regional flights and an even more exorbitant Php500 on long-haul flights. Unfortunately, I find Cebu Pacific meals really bland. And you have to bring your own salt since they don't have any on board. To remove meals, click on "no thanks" or "change meal" if you want another dish.

If you select "change meal," you will have to search for the meal which has "1" selected and choose "0" to remove the meal. Then select another meal if you want another choice. Then click "continue."

Do the same for the return flight. Click on "no thanks." Note though that if you plan to purchase a meal anyway, it's best to book online since pre-ordered meals come with a free drink and are served first.

Tip: It's best to add meals a few days before your trip. If you don't push through with the trip, at least you don't waste money on forfeited pre-booked meals which are non-refundable. You can pre-book meals up to 24 hours before your CEB flight.


You know that you've been successful in removing all the add-ons on the first page if no amount or Php0.00 shows at the bottom where is says "fees added on this page." You can then click "continue."

3. Remove seat selection
Cebu Pacific automatically selects a seat for you, usually one at the middle or back. And you get charged at least Php145 per way. You can remove them by clicking on "remove seat" beside the price under your name. Another way is to look for your assigned seat on the map, and clicking the blue icon for assigned seat to unselect it.

To unselect the seat for the return flight, click on the seat number on the left, then click "remove seat." You will know you've done it successfully if both boxes that show the seat numbers are blank.

Also, at the bottom of the page, it should show Php0.00 fees added. You can then click on "continue."

4. Remove travel insurance
The last automatic add-on is what many people miss. Travel insurance is not required. It's an automatic Php325 charged to you. To remove it, click on "no thanks" or "manage per guest."

Make sure the box beside your name is not ticked and that the amount in yellow shows Php0.00.

You know that you've been successful if the amount you will pay remains the same throughout the process. So that's about it for Cebu Pacific.

AIRASIA (AK), AIRASIA ZEST (Z2), AND AIRASIA PHILIPPINES (PQ)
AirAsia has two automatic add-ons. Here are steps you have to follow to remove them.

1. Remove (if you don't need it) or lessen checked baggage 
AirAsia automatically selects 20kg both ways. To remove it, simply click on "no, thanks" or from the drop-down menu, select "no checked bag" or lessen to 15kg.

Tip: It's best to add baggage a few days before your trip. In fact, you can add baggage on AirAsia up to 4 hours before your flight. When the trip is near, you can better estimate how much you need. And if you don't push through with the trip, at least you don't waste money on forfeited baggage allowance which is non-refundable.

Follow the same procedure for the return flight. Again remember, AirAsia is very strict with its 7kg carry-on allowance. You go beyond that, you will be asked to check-in your bag at a more expensive price. You can add luggage up to 4 hours before your flight.

For international flights, meals on AirAsia are not preselected. But I highly recommend that you purchase a meal or two because the food is really good. AirAsia is the gold standard for budget airline food. And at an affordable Php168 for a Nasi Lemak and Chicken Rice, among many others, you'll never go wrong.

Tip: It's best to add meals a few days before your trip. If you don't push through with the trip, at least you don't waste money on forfeited pre-booked meals which are non-refundable. You can pre-book meals up to 24 hours before your AirAsia flight.

2. Remove travel insurance
To remove the Php300 travel insurance, click on "no, thanks."

A prompt will appear to try to convince you to keep it. Just click on "I want to opt out" and you're done.

3. Don't select a seat (if you don't need to)
Seats are also not automatically selected. And you are not required to select any seats.

If you do not want a seat, just click "checkout" without selecting a seat. That's it for AirAsia.

PHILIPPINE AIRLINE (PR) AND PAL EXPRESS (2P)
Philippine Airlines has only one automatic add-on which is travel insurance.

1. Remove travel insurance
All you have to do is uncheck the box for travel insurance which costs Php350.

2. Note on PAL check-in baggage
PAL does not have preselected baggage allowance. So your allotment is 0kg to 10kg check-in (please check when you select your flight) and free 7kg carry-on luggage. If you need to purchase luggage, it's best to do it at the time of purchase because the Philippine Airlines website is the least user-friendly among the three.

If you opt not to purchase check-in baggage when you book online, and later on, decide that you need it, you will not be able to add baggage online. You have two inconvenient choices to add baggage:
– Go to the nearest ticketing office and purchase your baggage allowance there.
– Call the PAL hotline (02) 8558888 and purchase your baggage allowance through the agent. This will require you to give your credit card details to the agent.

You have to add baggage at least 4 hours before your PAL flight. Note also that any purchased baggage on PAL is non-transferable and forfeited if you change your flight schedule.

I hope this helps you weed through all those airline add-ons!
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