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travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

SGMT | Kalibo International Airport | Map

Just last week, my family and I took a Cebu Pacific flight from Kalibo to Incheon and back. We don’t actually live in or near Kalibo — or even in Panay island, which is where the Kalibo International Airport is located — but I could never get promo fares on Cebu-Incheon flights on convenient dates! Even factoring in the additional cost of flying from Cebu to Kalibo (and back), it still turned out cheaper overall than the direct Cebu-Incheon flights, so that’s what we ended up doing: Cebu-Kalibo on PAL, Kalibo-Incheon on Cebu Pacific, and vice versa.

Never having been to the Kalibo airport before, I didn’t know what to expect, and now that I have flown through there, there are probably a couple of things I would do differently. I’m sharing the things I learned here in the hope that they will prove useful to other people too.

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You might have to wait for your international flight outside the terminal building

And by outside, I mean in open-air seats serviced by a single wall fan just outside the domestic departure terminal.

When our PAL flight came in at around 5 PM, the guard outside the Arrival area asked us if we were connecting to an international flight, and what time. When we said our Cebu Pac flight to Incheon wasn’t until 1 AM, he told us we could go into the international departure area at around 10 PM and, meanwhile, pointed us to the seats outside. I don’t know if this is the usual procedure, or if it was just because there seemed to be some sort of construction going on there, but apparently the surprisingly high number of flights in the evenings (mostly to Korea) combined with the low capacity of the international departure area meant that passengers would only be allowed inside a few hours before ETD.

Honestly, my family and I are low-maintenance — I mean, it’s not like we have air conditioning at home either — and we’re not the type to complain about every little thing. That said, a long layover is tough enough without having to do it in heat and high humidity, and when the evening brought with it smoke from nearby farms, it just became too much. A lot of us started coughing and having difficulty breathing. Fortunately, when we brought it to the attention of a lady in the domestic departure area — pointing out that we had several seniors and a child with us — she personally shepherded us to the international departure area and we were allowed inside. There were no seats in the check-in area so we had to sit on the floor till the check-in counter opened, but at least we didn’t have to breathe in smoke.

Hopefully, this won’t go on and the construction we saw was for increasing the capacity of the international departure terminal. Until that happens, though, I can imagine how a lot of international passengers would have a mouthful to say about airport facilities.

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The Cebu Pacific Kalibo-Incheon ticket does not yet include the Kalibo airport terminal fee

Our ticket included a “Passenger Service Charge” of ₱6,504.20 for 5 persons so I assumed the terminal fee for Kalibo was already covered. 

Well, you know what they say about people who ass-u-me.

We ended up having to pay a terminal fee of ₱700 each at Kalibo. I asked the Cebu Pac staff at the airport what the Passenger Service Charge was for, but they couldn’t explain it to me, so I reached out to Cebu Pacific via Twitter. It turns out that the PSC in the tickets was for the airport in Incheon. 🙁 Oh, well. Lesson learned.

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If you get hungry while waiting, I recommend Miggy’s Place Bar and Grill

…but go for the Filipino food.

I’ve seen some reviews of Miggy’s complaining about the food but they all seem to involve Western food, which — if you see Miggy’s Filipino vibe — it’s not hard to guess they don’t specialize in Western dishes. Those were expensive too.

We had Filipino dishes and were quite happy with them. My favorite was the pork chop combo, which included rice, pancit and drinks. My mom liked their squid, the bangus was good, and the chicken inasal was fine too. We also had no problems with their service; the cheerful young lady who served us was gracious and accommodating.

I didn’t get to check out the food shops in the international departure lounge — they were in the second floor and, having gotten there late at night, I couldn’t be bothered — but I can recommend Waffle Time’s “Spanish chocolate” drink at domestic departure. It’s similar to our sikwate made from tablea and we loved pairing it with the budbud and latik we bought outside from the stall beside Miggy’s.

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The bathroom at the international departure lounge gets severely overwhelmed at times

There are actually quite a number of international flights that leave late in the evening so there are a lot of people waiting, and especially just before boarding time, the queues for the bathroom can get really long. I hope the ongoing construction includes a fix for this.

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Yes, they weigh your luggage

Most of us were just carrying cabin-size wheeled luggage (for a winter trip, lol, kami na) and many of them were weighed upon check in. My cousin had to take out her coat from her bag to keep it under 7 kg, but she put it back in after final security check. My backpack* — an eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior that contained most of my stuff — wasn’t weighed though. 

* I’ve noticed that most airport staff don’t really bother weighing backpacks unless they look really bulky. My backpack’s compression straps help. And I made sure the small heavy stuff like electronics were in my small bag, which are even less likely to be weighed.

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Before deciding to fly through Kalibo, try to see if that’s really your best option

And I mean that with no disrespect whatsoever to Kalibo — we all go through growing pains and we can’t all be Changi. For a huge number of people, flying through Kalibo does make sense, whether it’s in terms of cost, or proximity to Boracay, or availability of flights, considering a lot of small airlines fly to/from Kalibo. That said, do find out if it makes sense for you because there might be some discomfort along the way. (And if you fly from there when you don’t need to, you’re even kind of contributing to the overcrowding problem.)

In my case, as previously mentioned, flying Cebu-Kalibo-Incheon definitely made sense cost-wise — but in terms of time and energy, probably not. The 1 AM departure meant we weren’t well-rested on our first day — though the 3-hour bus ride to Yongpyong Ski Resort certainly helped — and I feel like if I had spent the waiting time working instead, what I would have earned would have made up for the cost difference.

Then again, it was nice to discover a new airport, and I liked eating at Miggy’s, so I wouldn’t say I have huge regrets.

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Flights to Kalibo from Manila, Cebu and Davao

To help you decide on whether flying through Kalibo would work best for you, here’s a list of flights to/from Manila, Cebu, and Davao.

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I hope all that helps! ^_^