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So back on October 24th 2015 I announced that I had saved a whopping QR 5,198 by flying Cebu Pacific instead of Qatar Airways Click Here To Read. And as promised I am now writing about how that worked out for me.

Well the first thing to disclose is that I messed up my online booking with Cebu Pacific and erroneously failed to pay for any luggage. I thought I had, I was sure I had. But for some unknown reason I did not. Something that I fortunately spotted before flying thus avoiding outrageously priced excess baggage fees during check in.

Having spotted my mistake I was easily able to go online with Cebu Pacific and add as an option 30kg for both my son and I at a total cost of QR 554. Of course this brings my perceived saving of QR 5,198 down to QR 4,644.

Cebu Pacific Check in at Doha Int. Airport

We arrived at the airport 4 hours before departure and began cueing for check in. Oh boy did I regret not checking in online. The cue was insane. However I did notice after cuing for a long time that the dedicated online check in desk could only be accessed having cued in a much longer ‘everyone’ cue first. Which seems a bit strange. Anyway having endured the cursed zig zag cueing, check in was simple and no different from any other airline I have flown with.

We went to the gate 2 hours before departure which was scheduled for 4:15am. Outside the gate there was hardly any seating so hanging around was not very comfortable. And a long cue had formed waiting for the gate to open. At 2:55 we finally made it inside the gate and were able to sit down. At 3:33 we were in the our next cue to board the aircraft. Something triggered everyone to jump up out of their seat and form a cue to board without an announcement telling them to and we joined in. However there must have been a technical problem with the aircraft. Through the window we could see the bridges being withdrawn from the aircraft as though it was departing, then we think they did an engine test or something, then the bridges were moved back into position. The frustrating bit was that there was no announcements advising us as to what was happening.We were in that cue for 1hr 25 mins grrrrr!!!

At 4:58am we finally boarded the plane. At 5:02am we were told they still had paperwork to do (at least they were making announcements now) and at 5:11am we finally pushed back. At 6:34pm (Philippines time) we touched down 19 minutes late. Which wasn’t too bad as we departed an hour late.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

There is only one class, economy class. And boy is it economical. The seats were hard with virtually no padding. The legroom seemed the same as on Qatar Airways, but the seats seemed narrower and more tightly packed.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

There was no LCD screen and no in flight entertainment. Even after moving to a seat where I had no one sitting next to me I had real trouble getting comfortable. During take off (before I moved seats) I was sat next to my son, and I can tell you now if I had had to stay in that seat for over 9 hours it would have been intolerable. Our elbows were digging into each other and we were fighting for armrest space. That said, later in the flight I noticed quite a few people managed to get to sleep even in such cramped conditions. I was sooooo…. envious of them.

It is possible to sleep on a cramped Cebu Pacific A330 flight

There is no pillow, and no blanket supplied. But they can be bought on the plane, which we did not. And once I was in a seat with no one next to me, I began to settle down and watch movies I had placed on my iPad ready for the trip. Time to order a beer. Oh no! The beer was warm! We had to drink it with ice to reduce the temperature. Not too expensive at P130 (QR 10) but they only had San Miguel Pale Pils, which when diluted with ice made a very weak tasting drink. But they must have put some in the fridge, because by about our 3rd or 4th it had finally started to be served cold. We brought our own supply of spicy snacks to enjoy with our beer.

Cebu Pacific, in flight beer P130 (QR 10, GBP 1.90) a can

I had pre ordered one hot meal and could have opted for a second one as well if I had wanted. Like the seating the meal was also very economical.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

Beef curry, a chocolate brownie and a small bottle of water for P500 (QR 38). This was paid for in the total ticket price at the time of booking.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

It was edible but for me not quite enough and I was left feeling like I needed another one. Qatar Airways gives 2 hot meals included in their ticket price, which consist of slightly more in quantity and variety.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

But in my opinion both airlines offer meals that were similar in quality and taste. And I do remember being highly critical of my last QA in flight meal. There is lots of snacks you can buy off the trolley including noodles, chips etc. at reasonable prices, so there is no need to go hungry. And they don’t mind you bringing meals onto the flight either. I noticed a number of people eating meals they had prepared themselves.

Service was ok. The cabin crew were very similar in performance to QA staff. Nothing notable to comment on there.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

Would I fly Cebu Pacific Doha to Manila again? Oh yes! I would have been happier on a Qatar Airways flight. The beer would have probably been colder, the meal slightly larger and the seats more comfortable. Oh and there would have been in flight entertainment and we may have left on time. But would I have been prepared to pay an extra QR 2,322 each (remember total QR saving 4,644) for those improvements? Nope! A 3rd person could have traveled with us with the money we saved and we would have still had cash left over.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

The fact it was the Christmas period undoubtedly increase both airlines prices and this makes the saving appear more. Now if the difference in price between the two airlines was less than QR 1,000 it is possible I would be flying with Qatar Airways again.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

One last thing. At the moment there are only 2 flights a week each way DOH-MNL-DOH with Cebu Pacific, so your traveling dates are much more restricted. Oh and on the flight back Cebu had no beer!!! What!!!

Cebu Pacific A330 Safety Instruction Card

 

 

 

Ok, this is my first time in a long time that I have been in an airport without lounge access. But you know what, it’s not that bad. I am sat comfortably in a nice food court with a splendid view out onto the pad. The variety of food is extensive and not that expensive. Ok it’s not free like in the lounges, but the selection is way, way better and so is the view.

 There is plenty of seating, with a nice hastle free atmosphere. The seating isn’t much different to that available in the lounges (unless you are travelling First Class), and in many respects is actualy better. I have always found the lounges here in HIA to be dark and depressing. It’s light and vibrant here in the food court.


As regards food, there are many options. Pasta, noodles, sandwiches, pizza, Burger King etc. And I have just spotted a very decent 6 item breakfast for QR 26, although that wasn’t in this food court that was in a restaurant called Marche. You would need a second mortgage to afford a breakfast in Heathrow.

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Burger King here is excellent value with a Double Whopper Meal costing just QR 29 (USD 7.97). Not much more than the high street in Qatar.

Burger King in HIA Doha Qatar
Burger King in HIA Doha Qatar
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Reasonable prices in Burger King in HIA Qatar

The shopping in the HIA is excellent with plenty to keep your mind busy while you wait for your gate to open. The thing is I used to turn up here, and go direct to my lounge and stay there until my gate was open. And that was a huge mistake. Man I used to get so bored. Down here there is much more to do and see, the food is better and it’s much more spacious. I’m not missing the lounge at all today.

I lost my lounge access because I haven’t flown enough this year to re-qualify for Qatar Airways Silver Membership. And although my Qatar Airways co-branded Mastercard gives me free lounge access throughout the region, incredibly it doesn’t here in Qatar. How crazy is that? And I found my Priority Pass to be a waste of money on the routes I am flying.

Right that’s enough about HIA, next blog will be from Manila while I am killing time in Terminal 3.

So this morning I lost my Silver Status, and was informed by the following email:-

Dear MrCANDY,  As a valued Privilege Club member, we are writing to advise you of a change in your membership status.  Your membership status has been renewed at our Burgundy level.

At first I was major disappointed, but then I though fair enough, I haven’t traveled enough this year to deserve it, I will be flying long haul another 2 times this year and that should get me back up to silver again.

But then I thought how disappointed I was with my Silver Membership, and questioned if it was worth the extra money to stay loyal to Qatar Airways, or if I would be better off switching to lower cost airlines and enjoying the extra money instead.

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I got an upgrade to business class when I flew to the Philippines last Christmas, and that was awesome. But most of the time the only real benefit is lounge access at the airport. And to be honest the Silver Lounge in Qatar is nothing like as good as those in Dubai, and the lounge in Manila is pathetic and not really worth anything at all.

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Al Maha Lounge Hamad Int. Airport Doha

Now that Cebu Pacific have started flying direct to the Philippines from Doha, I’m seriously considering flying with them. If I still had my Silver membership I would most certainly stay with QA, But now I’m more tempted to save around QR 1,500 (£265 or 18,559 Pesos) and sit with my fellow peasants in the public departures area, and not worry about trying to regain my Silver status. Especially now that Manila has refurbished their departures facilities at T1, and it has better food than the lounges do. I can do a lot with QR 1,500 it may be time to switch to Cebu Pacific.

PAGSS Lounge T1 Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA Airport
PAGSS Lounge T1 Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA Airport

Well all good things must come to an end. And the free parking enjoyed in the HIA long stay has ceased to be. Unfortunately it’s a little more expensive than I was hoping for. QR 2 per hour, and QR 45 per 24 hours.

Long Stay Car Park Entrance

I’m planing a 10 day trip soon, and that would cost me a massive QR 450 while I am away at QR 45 a day. And that stings just a little too much for me.

HIA Long Stay Car Park Rates

Of course I could just do what these guys are doing and park on the road. The cars in these images are all parked. You are not looking at a stream of traffic frozen by my camera, they are all driver-less. They have all parked on the road and walked in I guess.

Doha Airport Cars Parked on Road

Doha Airport Cars Parked on Road

But I will probably just take a cab. Which is what I guess a lot of other people are doing as the long stay car park is looking very shall we say empty these days. When it was free it was really well used, and there were no cars parked on the roadside. A more reasonable price would have been a better option in my honest opinion. It’s a fabulous facility, with lots of security roaming around and air conditioned shuttle bus waiting rooms. Just a little too pricey for me. Which is good news for the taxi companies.

Empty HIA Long Stay Car Park

Oh and if you plan to pop along to check out the car park in advance of travelling, be aware once you drive in, it’s QR 2 even if you come straight back out. My 6 minuet stay was QR 2, which I didn’t mind paying to find out how everything works and grab these images.

HIA Long Stay Car Park Reciept

NOTE: It’s no longer free to park in the long stay. Now it’s QR 2 per hour, QR 45 per 24 hour.

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Here is a video to help you find the Long Stay

Directions to HIA Long Stay Car Park Video
Two min Video Directions

And here are step by step instructions

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 1
1) Move into the left lane

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 2
2) Turn left

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 3
3) Turn left again

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 4
4) Yes this left turn 😉

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 5
5) Stay in the left lane and then filter turn left

HIA Long Stay Car Park Directions 6
6) You have reached your destination 😀

Long Stay Car Park is still free at the time of writing this article. Now catch a shuttle bus and enjoy your flight.

Whereas most airports will go nuts if they catch you taking photographs, the new Hamad International Airport #HIAqatar positively encourage it.

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It was great to see so many things of interest to photograph, and so many people photographing them.

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Plenty of space for families to settle, both official

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and unofficial

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Great areas to keep kids happy

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and grownups too

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This truly is like no airport I have come across anywhere else

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with big art

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big spaces

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and nobody hassling you for taking photos

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and just a little work still going on

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And if I had longer, there would be loads more images. Well done Qatar! This airport is truly magnificent!

So here I am sat in the brand new shiny Hamad International Airport Qatar. I’m glad I took the time to come here this afternoon in advance of this evening’s flight to figure out the Long stay airport parking. I left home in Abu Hamour tonight and was parked in a space in the airport within 30 minutes hassle free.

Once in a parking space in was a tiny walk to the bus pickup point where a bus was ready and waiting. A very helpful chap assisted me by popping my baggage onto the bus for me and within minuets we were on our way to the bus terminal which is just a short hop away.

On arrival at the bus terminal the same nice chap took my baggage back off the bus and set it down outside for me. Yes he did work for the airport and he wasn’t just a nice bloke who enjoyed carrying people’s luggage. Then a short walk from the bus into the main terminal which wasn’t much fun. I was a bit laden with heavy luggage and there wasn’t a trolley in sight. Although the walk from the bus to terminal was short, I was struggling and this was made worse because there were a million airport workers for me to battle my way through to get to the terminal doors. The workers use this bus terminal as well and they all seemed relieved to have finished work or something and were in groups chatting while I was on a mission to get past them. This was mildly frustrating but not the end of the world. Then up two sets of escalators to departures.

In departures there were loads of helpful staff, who politely and quickly guided me to my check in desk. Only one person in front of me, and I was checked in by a beautiful Filipina who cheerfully got me a decent seat and I was on my way to passport control in no time.

E-Gate tastic! I love my E-Gate card, no cue, but a slightly more complicated E-Gate mechanism meant even a technical guru like me need help. And the guy who was there to help struggled a bit as well, but it’s a million times better than the manual option and was over in minutes.

Security was no better and no worse than the old airport. No cue really, just the usual inconvenience of security doing their job ensuring we travel safely.

Yay! Now for the Oryx Lounge. I steam off at full speed to locate the Oryx only to find that my expensive Priority Pass wasn’t valid in the new airport Oryx Lounge, and apparently Priority Pass’s lounge won’t be ready until September! OMG!!! No Lounge Access!!! I am not happy with Priority Pass and they are going to be getting a stiff letter from me shortly.

So here I am, sat in Burger King on a hard bench seat eating a Double Whopper Meal for QR 29. Having paid USD 250 for my priority pass 🙁 But hey at least there is free WiFi here. Oh and Burger King need some more staff. Only two servers operating caused about 10 minutes of cue, which was too long for someone who was supposed to be in a nice comfortable lounge by this point.

Right….. of to take a look around

IMPORTANT! Click this > Click HERE for updated version of these directions

NOTE: It’s no longer free to park in the long stay. Now it’s QR 2 per hour, QR 45 per 24 hour.

HIA Long Stay Car Park Rates

For some unknown reason HIA don’t want you to know where their Long Stay Car Park is. But I sneeked in there this afternoon and drove around and around until I figured it out. So…. here is the secret they don’t want you to know:-

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Look for the yellow “High Vehicles” signs. These are what you will need to follow.

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Follow that yellow “High Vehicles Exit” sign and go first left on the very left. Do not follow any of the signs to the car parks as they are all short stay.

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Keep following the yellow signs, keeping right this time.

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you will take a 90 degree left bend and then go straight ahead.

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When you reach this sign, don’t go right for the exit, turn left.

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Your there…. YAY!!!

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Free Long Stay Car Park at HIA

Now head for the big ‘J’ this seems to be where they are picking up from.

Hamad International Airport, Long Stay Shuttle Bus

Oh by the way, Long Stay is free still at the moment!

I will let you know more after I have tried this out tonight.

So at last I am looking forward to visiting Hamad International Airport as a flying customer instead of a press photographer. On previous visits only security were there to keep us company. So tonight I am so looking forward to seeing this beautiful building in use. To see the blocked off areas that were inaccessible to me earlier, and to see how passengers interact with the environment.

HIA Pre Opening
Image of Hamad International Airport terminal before it opened

I hope my  Priority Pass will be valid, as I believe not all lounges are open, and those that are have been reassigned for the business and first class customers (I am just a meager economy class peasant). But I will report back here with my findings later tonight.

I was just thinking how nice it was going to be, walking direct from gate to plane without using a bus next week. When I fly for the first time from the gorgeous new Hamad International Airport for a nice relaxing vacation. And I recalled all the buses driving around and around within the old DOH shuttling us from gate to plane, and then plane to gate. There was a veritable army of buses and bus drivers.

What became of all those buses and more importantly the bus drivers? I hope they got reapropriated into new positions elsewhere in the new airport.