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Getting around by air

AirAsia, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are the main domestic carriers. Skyjet is a newer carrier with good deals on some key routes such as Manila–Caticlan and Manla–Busuanga.

Other carriers:

Air Juan Runs small sea planes (usually six-seaters) out of its terminal in Manila, and is easing regional travel by opening direct routes between key provincial tourist towns (such as Busuanga–Caticlan, Puerto Galera–Caticlan and Cebu City–Bantayan).

Air Swift Serves El Nido from Manila, Caticlan and Cebu City; owned by luxury resort operator El Nido Resorts, but these days has plenty of space for nonguests.

Northsky Air Scheduled flights connect Tuguegarao (North Luzon) with Batanes and the remote Sierra Madre towns of Maconacon and Palanan in Isabela Province, North Luzon. Also available for charter.

Sky Pasada Links several cities in North Luzon from its hub in Binalonan, Pangasinan (2½ hours north of Manila), including Vigan, Tuguegarao, Basco (Batanes), Palanan and Maconacon, using 15- to 19-seat turboprop planes. Planes available for charter.

Domestic Booking Tips

  • Pay attention to baggage allowances – some routes and airlines are more restrictive than others.
  • Pre-pay for your baggage online or you'll pay triple at the check-in counter.
  • If you book a month or so in advance, you’ll rarely pay more than P1500 (about US$30) for a one-way ticket on the main carriers (exceptions on touristy routes such as Manila–Caticlan and Manila–Siargao, and during peak domestic-travel periods).
  • On most airlines you will not pay a premium for one-way tickets nor save money by purchasing a round-trip ticket.
  • Flight routes are skewed towards Manila and (to a lesser extent) Cebu. If you want to fly between any other cities you’ll likely have to purchase two tickets and transfer through one of those hubs. Air Juan's inter-regional flights are improving the situation somewhat.
  • Don’t plan too tight a schedule for connecting flights – flight delays are a fact of life in the Philippines.
  • Typhoons and other adverse weather often ground planes from July to December – some routes are more susceptible than others.
  • A good way to avoid delays is to depart painfully early in the morning, before runway congestion disrupts schedules.

Departure Tax

Most domestic terminals levy a P200 or so departure tax, payable before you go through security. In Manila that fee is wrapped into your ticket.