I had to get from one island to another island in the Philippines. Three airlines ply the route. Would any of them fly nonstop? And which airline would be cheapest, fastest, most convenient, and most fun?
I had to travel from Coron, Palawan, to Boracay, both in the Philippines, but I wasn't sure if there were non-stop flights or if I would have to connect in Manila.
The obvious choices were Philippine Airlines, a legacy carrier, or Cebu Pacific Air, a budget or low-cost carrier.
A little detective work uncovered a third choice, a relatively new airline called Air Juan, which operates a fleet of Cessna Grand Caravan EXs, Cessna Grand Caravan Amphibian Seaplanes, and Bell Helicopter 407GXs.
Whereas Philippine and Cebu Pacific would require a change of planes at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Air Juan flew non-stop between Coron and Boracay.
Good News, Bad News
That was the good news. The bad news was that the flights only operated twice a week, which would force me to adjust my hotel reservations.
Would that be a problem?
I really didn't want to change planes in Manila.It was the difference between a less than one hour trip versus a trip that would eat up most of the day.
As it turned out, I arrived at my hotel in Boracay in time for lunch.
I didn't even consider price. I assumed the luxury of flying non-stop in a small aircraft would be more expensive than flying in a larger 72-seat ATR-200-50 aircraft.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
Low Cruising Altitude
Not only was Air Juan faster, more convenient, and more fun, it was also considerably cheaper than the other two airlines.
Not only that, because of the low cruising altitude - just over 9,000 feet - it also offered the best view of the spectacular seascape below.
More luck was on my side. Following days of stormy weather, on the day of my flight, the skies were clear, sunny, and calm: perfect weather for aerial sightseeing.
I also got to spend an additional two days in Coron, something I was very happy about.
My only disappointment was that conventional aircraft was used on the flight. Next time I will choose my destination based on which one requires the use of a seaplane rather than a conventional aircraft.
Air Juan offers three ticket categories: early bird, savers, and normal. Ticket prices nearly double between 15 December and 16 December.
Purchasing a savers ticket cost me 4,599 Philippine pesos, or US$87. Because me luggage was 16 kilos overweight, I paid an additional 1,600 pesos, or one peso per ki;lo, which worked out to US$33.
The total price came to 5,799 pesos, of US$119. My flight on Air Juan was entirely self-funded.
All things considered, I think the flight represented excellent value, and I would definitely fly this airline again.
I was lucky because the fine weather allowed for a very smooth takeoff, flight, and landing. The views through the windows were also spectacular.
For the record, this was an entirely self-funded flight.
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