MANILA, FEBRUARY 16, 2012 (MALAYA) BY AMADO P. MACASAET - A PASSENGER buys a ticket from Airphil Express for one peso for Davao, Cebu or Zamboanga. He pays for the ticket today but he cannot leave until September I. Thatís more than six months away.

The airline calls it Piso (one peso) fare. Itís actually two pesos if the passenger goes back to Manila. That is the literal meaning of the "gimmick."

When the passenger buys the ticket, he finds himself paying about P300 one way. How? The airline collects fuel charges, taxes and security fees from the passenger. Flying out or coming back, he gets no food, not even soft drinks, but he can ask for water which may not always be cold.

The passenger does not pay for checked-in baggage if it weighs not more than 15 kilos. Beyond that weight, he pays P112 per kilo.

The other trick is the Piso passenger pays higher than the regular fare if he changes his scheduled date.

The budget airlines use the passengerís money for months, sometimes as many as seven.

Itís not actually Piso fare although the value of the ticket is incredible at one peso, one way.

The promo tickets are available for a very limited period. In the case of Airphil, the period expires today, Feb. 16. Cebu Pacific is slightly more expensive but dirt cheap just the same. The one-way ticket to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, costs P1.43.

The time to buy the cheap ticket is also short, from February 14 until the airline tells the would-be passenger the promo tickets have all been sold.

The period to buy the ticket from Cebu Pacific is shorter than Airphil, from June I to September 30, 2012.

Like Airphil, passengers are not given in-flight food. The airline has a reduced fare of P214 from Manila to what it calls "Cebu hub seats". Cebu Pacific sells international tickets for as low as P888.

This low fare is good for passengers flying from Kalibo to Hong Kong and Manila to Brunei.

But the passenger pays other charges.

The low-priced tickets, less than half of regular fare to any destination in the Visayas and Mindanao, are good for three months from April 1 to June 30.

Noticeable in these promo fares Ė dirt cheap that they are Ė is the very limited time to buy the cheap tickets and the very long wait.

Cebu Pacific claims it is making profits but its initial public offering of secondary shares hardly took off.

The way to go among local airlines is budget fare for those who can afford to wait for months and board the plane on a full belly. But the cost of the ticket is not one peso. The price is close to P300, one way and the airline does not provide food.

Air Asia will soon join the fray. It has not announced its fares or its destinations. But it will not be left behind.

Philippine Airlines hardly joins the promo gimmick. Its international operations subsidize the domestic flights. Thatís because PAL does not pay a tax on fuel on international flights.

But it cannot be granted more landing rights in other countries because the category of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has not been elevated to a level considered safe by international standards.

That will remain so until the present Category II of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is elevated to Category I. PAL, Asiaís first airline, incurs heavy losses nearly every year. It has been besieged by labor troubles from almost the first day it was completely privatized.

The airfare war is described by many as a fluke but it benefits a lot of people who reach their destinations in about an hour or less spending only one peso one way, according to the promo. They actually pay about 300 times more.

Yet, the promo has not reduced the number of passengers taking the boat to any place where there are piers.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved