I think everyone of you had seen or watched a few episodes of The Amazing Race. And since it's a race for a million dollars, every second of the race counts. You might have noticed that some contestants take risks, like taking a connecting flight with layovers less than an hour so as to avoid elimination.
You won't believe that I've experienced this situation not once, but twice!
The Fall of Saigon
I've been to Saigon twice, the most recent was last October with my mom, and my aunt. My flight itinerary went like this: We leave Saigon at 1:00AM and arrive in Manila at 4:00AM. My connecting flight to Mactan-Cebu is scheduled to depart at 6:20AM, and from Mactan-Cebu, my connecting flight to Tacloban is scheduled to depart at 10AM. We stayed at our hotel in Saigon until 8PM. To kill time, I played the piano and I got preoccupied that I forgot to web check-in for my succeeding flights. It was a HUGE mistake.
10PM Arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
12MN We were waiting for our flight back to Manila. We were later informed that our flight will be delayed for an hour due to late arrival turnaround of our assigned aircraft. The predeparture area of the airport didn't have a free wi-fi connection. But I just shrugged it off, thinking that I still have enough time.
2:10AM Cebu 752 was given a take-off clearance by the Ho Chi Minh Control Tower. And it finally dawned on me that it's already 3:10AM in the Philippines. We were an hour behind. Uh-oh. Double trouble, double trouble, something wicked this way comes!
4:30AM The pilot announced that we had just started our initial descent. Estimated time of arrival was at five in the morning. I got nervous as I filled out the forms of immigration.
5:02AM Touchdown Metro Manila. I was seated at row 23 and I stayed inside the aircraft in the next 10 minutes. We were parked at Bay 102, facing Resorts World Manila. SPELL DISASTER. It was a mad dash from Bay 102 to the immigration counter. To make things worse, all three walkalators were broken. I saw someone who was also from our flight, running to the immigration counter. We'll call him kuya for our future reference.
5:30AM Arrived at the immigration counter and told the officer that I still have a flight to catch.
5:50AM Another mad dash to the domestic departure area. The ground crew asked for my flight. Told her it was CEB564. She got irritated and told me that me that the counter's already closed and they were already on their boarding process. I saw kuya again at the check-in counter. Apparently, we were booked on a same flight to Mactan-Cebu. The thing was, he had himself web checked-in prior the flight thus he had a seat; whereas I didn't. Still, I went to the check-in counter to try my luck. Kuya told the ground staff that we were on the same flight from Saigon. Miraculously, the ground staff gave me my boarding pass and told me to run. Run Forrest, run!
6:10AM The line to the final security check was long thus I told the kind gentlemen on the line that my flight's leaving in a few minutes. They gave way, mainly because I looked so stressed. The boarding gate was at the far end of the terminal. Then, I heard my name. It went something like this: "Final call for boarding to the last remaining passenger of Cebu Pacific Air flight 5J564 bound for Mactan-Cebu, to Mister Renz Marione Bulseco, kindly board the aircraft now through gate 110. This is your last call. All aboard please." I told myself to run, even if I was physically tired. I thought of vomiting because I can no longer handle the stress. My energy level went from 90 to 10 in just ten minutes.
6:20AM Finally. Minutes after I entered the aircraft, the cabin crew closed the door. Thank God, I made it to the finish line. Didn't care that a lot of people stared at me upon entering the cabin.
LESSON LEARNED: Web check-in is an innovation. It actually saves lives.
The Tale of Two Airlines
To save money, I booked a flight from Mactan-Cebu to Davao via AirAsia. The roundtrip ticket cost roughly Php2000. For my Tacloban to Mactan-Cebu leg, I booked a flight in Cebu Pacific because it is the only airline serving that route. Total cost of all flights was only Php4000, almost half of the regular fare. I may save money but there is an inherent risk. You see, if my Cebu Pacific flight is delayed and if I didn't make it to my connecting flight via Air Asia, Cebu Pacific isn't responsible for it, unless if my flight to Davao from Cebu is also from Cebu Pacific.
8:30AM The ground crew of AirAsia informed me that my flight to Mactan-Cebu from Davao will be delayed for four hours. Estimated time of departure was set at 2:00PM.
8:45AM Just to make sure, I had myself web checked-in for my Cebu-Tacloban flight through my mobile app.
12:00PM Claimed our free lunch but it wasn't Jollibee's Chicken Joy. Huhu, but beggar's can't be choosy, right?
1:20PM Checked the whereabouts of our turnaround aircraft through the flightradar24 app. Our assigned aircraft just took-off Mactan-Cebu, and there's no way that we'd depart at exactly two in the afternoon.
2:30PM We finally took-off Davao and I was fervently praying that we'd be number one for the approach sequence in Mactan-Cebu.
3:31PM Touchdown Mactan-Cebu. We were assigned to park at the international wing of the airport, right in front of the control tower. Upon disembarkation, I heard my name. Everything went slow and I turned white. No, no, no. NOT AGAIN. Deja vu! "Final call for boarding to our last departing guest of Cebu Pacific Air Flight 5J422 bound for Mactan-Cebu, to Mister Renz Marione Bulseco, kindly board the aircraft now through Gate number 8.
3:35PM I was running for my life. Since we were parked at the international side, the route going to the domestic departure hall was longer. The web check-in practically saved my life and upon boarding, I was the only one inside the bus. #FeelingCelebrity
3:45PM Minutes after I boarded the aircraft, the cabin crew closed the door. If my Davao-Cebu flight departed beyond 2:30PM, I might have missed my connecting flight to Tacloban, and I'd buy another ticket, which was scheduled to depart five in the morning the following day.
Well, I guess I'd pay more than to take risk. Running inside a big airport isn't a joke. Well, for those who are frequent travelers like me, make sure to have yourself web checked-in before your flight, unless if you have check-in baggages. Mobile apps of Cebu Pacific and AirAsia are available for both iOS and Android phones. Make use of these innovations and it will surely save your time and resources.