13 Feb2015

The deals to be had today were few and far apart… or at least that was our personal experience… For us, an almost total waste of time. Mrs. MM had scored some phenomenal deals for air tickets last year at this same fair, plus she was allowed to book tickets at a normal PAL office, with her frequent flier card so didn’t even have to line up for hours, so we figured we would get out bright and early this morning with a long list of desired tickets that we hoped to save a bundle on. Since I fly to Cebu several times a month, I had hoped to book some 50+ legs on PAL while Mrs. MM was looking for deals on international travel.

We spent a day mapping out trips, desired flights, times, etc. and went armed with printouts. We arrived at MOA at 6:45 am. Yup, 6:45am and were already say number 200 in line! And the doors didn’t open until 10am! By the time we got to the PAL booth, which to their credit had 50 agents taking reservations, we had a number of 300 (they let all senior citizens in ahead) and we waited another 3 hours before getting to the counter! Now with say 8 hours invested, only to be told by agents that 70% of the travel dates or flights I wanted were not discounted or there were no seats were left. Ergo, near complete waste of time and effort.

Mrs. MM scored a few tickets for a crew trip to Singapore, which we saved some $30 each over internet prices, but frankly, I had sent my managers in Cebu to the Silkair office and they ended up with far better deals on flights, and in the comfort of the Silkair office with less than a 30 minute wait! So take note, Silkair and Singapore airlines deals in their offices until the end of the month are a VERY GOOD THING.

So in case you were thinking of investing a chunk of your Valentine’s Day or Sunday at the PTAA Travel Expo, don’t bother. You would do nearly as well to book advance tickets on PAL and other airlines for trips from August onwards online (the prices are very similar to special offers) while tickets before July that are discounted are few and far between.

If flying to Europe or the States, the prices were some 30-35% HIGHER than last year’s deals, so there weren’t any great deals on those routes either. With the new route to New York on PAL, their economy fare of $930+ or so is about $200 cheaper than on-line, but their business class fares were outrageously high. Considering everyone is bragging about having removed fuel surcharges due to plummeting oil prices, tickets this year seem 30+% more than last year.

So after 9.5 hours total at the fair, I figured I saved about PHP10,000 max on 14 flight segments vs. internet prices last night. Or that means I earned savings of roughly PHP900 per hour for standing in line and starving myself while suppressing the urge to find a urinal.

But if you insist on going… here is Marketman’s tip of the day. All travel agents at the fair can book the lower PAL fares. So don’t bother waiting 3 hours at PAL when some of the less busy agents can book you the same ticket for a small fee. It’ll save you a lot of time. And if you want to go just to browse booths of specific destinations like Japan, Korea, South Africa, etc. and just pick up brochures and timetables, then head there later in the day…

This will definitely be the first and the last time I will ever line up for this travel fair again. But I will keep my eyes out for specials from individual airlines at their own offices in future. It seems many top airlines didn’t bother to participate in this fair, and I can totally see why. SAVE YOURSELF THE HASSLE. DON’T BOTHER.



  1. Betchay says:

    Thanks for the tip. I was planning to go tomorrow but now having second thoughts. Maybe I ‘ll just call our travel agent instead. :) The same reason I didn’t go last year….the line at the entrance was just too long! :(

    Feb 13, 2015 | 8:00 pm


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  3. Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com says:

    My first time to attend the expo, because last year, my readers told me they were able to buy a return ticket to Batanes for P1,700. Arrived at 10am, the line was already pretty long just to get a number at PAL. Good thing a stranger gave me his! I was there for 6 hours, only to be told the return tickets to Batanes cost P6,000. Total fail. Never going again.

    Feb 13, 2015 | 10:53 pm

  4. bree says:

    I think I saw you MM! I was 220-something but left early cause my regular travel agent forwarded me a copy of the prices and it was not worth it.

    But yes, what a waste of time and effort! The difference between peak and non-peak season was only $200 round-trip for a US flight. You could buy three (and get yourself an entire row of seats essentially) economy class tickets and it would still end up cheaper than a business class ticket.

    Their business class prices are almost equal (roughly $500-$800 difference which I am willing to spend a little extra on 16+ hour flights) to Cathay, Emirates, Singapore Air prices but PAL’s services and seats are nowhere near their competitors’ caliber!

    Feb 13, 2015 | 11:56 pm

  5. J says:

    Hi MM, thank you for this post. My fiancĂ© and I were hoping to go and score some deals for our honeymoon this year but you’ve confirmed what the little voice at the back of my head was telling me: reseach and booking early can still save a good amount of money :)

    Feb 14, 2015 | 1:04 am

  6. Shel says:

    planning to go as well tomorrow, thanks for the tip, will definitely change my plans instead

    Feb 14, 2015 | 2:06 am

  7. Monty says:

    I wonder if our airport situation is affecting the price of airfare. With oil prices down significantly from last year, there should be a lot of bargains to be had, but this is not the case. Has our airport’s inability to handle more passengers led to a shortage of supply amidst a growing demand from both local and foreign travelers? Just yesterday the WSJ had an article about the Philippines’ inability to attract tourists, with the main reason being the lack of modern airports and hotel rooms. We barely got 5 million tourists, as compared to Malaysia’s 28m and Thailand’s 26m.

    Feb 14, 2015 | 7:39 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Monty, I think that’s probably part of the picture… certainly airports and hotel rooms are a critical component, along with other infrastructure issues like decent and unclogged roadways to tourist destinations, reliable and well-priced (not exorbitant) power, water and sewage systems. Domestic travel, air and sea in particular are somewhat expensive, unreliable in some cases, and schedules erratic. Bus and other vehicular travel can be hard and spotty and expensive to arrange.

    But I think there are other issues as well. Like a shortage of properly managed or maintained tourist sites in key cities. One can go to Cebu for 2 days, but besides beaches and some churches and an interesting thing here and there, there isn’t much else to see except the malls and other equally boring things. Also, many things are just so remote and difficult to get to.

    Service here, for a country that used to be known as the source of service personnel for all over the globe, if often left wanting in hotels and restaurants. There just isn’t the apparent pride in work, and quality of service that is seen in so many other of our neighbors.

    Crime and related issues are another topic of concern. It’s bad enough Filipinos try to scam other pinoys in cabs from piers, airports and other destinations, but when they do it to foreigners, it really sends a poor message to others who may want to visit the country.

    As for the type of tourists, how many of the 5 million are actually Filipino balikbayans, carrying Philippine passports and their spouses and families? I would wager a wild guess that maybe as many as 35-50% of our “tourists” are in fact Filipinos coming home to visit (that’s probably true in Vietnam as well to some degree). Many other tourists are those from China, South Korea, etc. on very low-priced tours, here for a bit of sun on the beaches, or to gamble, or worse, in search of prostitutes or equally unsavory things…

    Our environmental record is pretty appalling as well. With 97% of our forests denuded and sending topsoil to the seas, our reefs almost 95% damaged, our seas overfished, our water quality in top places like Boracay approaching a watered down sewage tank… you have to sigh.

    I could write more, but it’s a bit depressing and negative.

    I always thought that the Philippines target of 10 million tourists by 2016 was “pie in the sky” and probably mentioned that in an old post, but it helps to set ambitious targets, as long as we really address the key things that will make that goal possible. A catchy phrase isn’t going to make up for a lot of missing basics.

    Feb 14, 2015 | 6:39 pm

  9. Mimi says:

    Hi, were you able to see the promos being offered by beach resorts/hotels? Are they any good? :)

    Feb 14, 2015 | 8:59 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Mimi, Mrs. MM picked up a few brochures/fliers from some beach resorts, like El Nido and other upper end resorts and they seemed to have a few deals, but nothing that made us rush back to book rooms…

    Feb 14, 2015 | 9:51 pm

  11. Jenrod729 says:

    I was so set on attending this event but was discouraged by the fact that it is valentines weekend. I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic with the people out on dates. I was planning to let the 14th pass and attend tomorrow the 15th. I wanted I ask if you noticed any package trips abroad that seemed good. Destinations like Cambodia, Thailand or even Europe. Thanks

    Feb 14, 2015 | 11:57 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Jenrod729, I have to admit I wasn’t looking for package trips… but if you wish to go to browse travel agent offerings, Sunday might be a good day when many of the serious bargain hunters with long lists of bookings have already come through. My post was mainly targeted at those wanting to book airline tickets directly. However, if logic is consistent, if the airlines weren’t offering many deals, then I would guess that the package tours weren’t the best either…

    Feb 15, 2015 | 7:06 am

  13. tercer says:

    Why were seniors given priority over everyone else? Just by virtue of being older? If I were one of the younger folks who came really early and witnessed several seniors who came much later but were able to jump the line (with their escorts), I may have protested.

    Feb 17, 2015 | 5:04 am

  14. Ella Santos Honrado-Trivinio says:

    I think the Philippines should embrace the “sex tourism” industry ala Thailand. Our women are already well know in various parts of the world for their sexual guile and limber abilities. From Singapore to Dubai. I think we should capitalize on that and legalize it. And morally-upright people should keep their 1950s sampaguita picture morals in check and get on with the 21st century.

    Feb 22, 2015 | 8:03 pm

  15. barbs says:

    Hi everyone, just a general question, on the up coming travel expo 2016, do I need to register or do I have to pay something on the said event?

    Jan 21, 2016 | 5:24 am


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