Shaky SEAir private jet experience

5 Jun
My private SEAir jet - small enough?

My private SEAir jet - small enough?

The only viable way to get around the Philippines is by plane. No worries, I’ve been taking ‘some’ planes before – till I saw the SEAir plane that was going to bring me (hopefully) to Manilla. The mini-plane looked and felt more like a bus – judging both from the interior décor, as well as from the sensitivity to shaky bumpy roads. I was the only one on board besides a suicidal Korean couple… But I am still alive

The SEAir battle

Hm, not sure if I wanna fly with SEAir again

Hm, not sure if I wanna fly with SEAir again

On a rainy day at the beach in Boracay, I all of a sudden get an sms saying ‘dear Miss/Mr Geudens – your flight from Caticlan (Boracay) to Puerto Princesa (on Palawan) is cancelled – we put you on next flight 4 days later !!!’. I usually like to get text messages, but I was not happy with this one. Especially because my continuing flight from El Nido (North Palawan) is only one day later than the replacement flight they booked me on (and it takes 8 hours of morning bus to get from Puerto Princesa to el Nido  – read here).

Bye bye Boracay ;-(

Bye bye Boracay ;-(

So I ring them to tell them that I have a problem – so subsequently they have a problem. ‘Sorry SIR’ (I hate this ‘sir’) ‘we can refund you SIR’ (oh yeah, how do I get to my destination to take my continuing fligh?) ‘let us call you back SIR’… And they don’t even care to call me back – they call the guesthouse where I’m staying. So I get the messages via the owner of the guesthouse saying that I can choose a refund (and stay in Boracay indefinitely???? Maybe not a bad perspective either ;-) – or being put on a Zest Air flight via Manila, but I have to pay the difference in price.

Not happy! I try to explain to them that that’s maybe not a good way to do business. To cancel a flight, to propose a worse alternative, and even ask me to pay double price for it!!  Like if I would sell you a Mercedes, you have paid for it, but then I decide I only have a Lada for you, but in order to get the Lada you have to pay double the price. However they did not seem to understand – and I did not really have much options. Except writing a few complaint letters…

Flying in my (almost) private jet

Am I the only one on this flight?

Am I the only one on this flight?

When I finally arrive in the airport after a heartbreaking goodbye from my Boracay angel (read here) I’m too early (we were counting on delays because of rough weather on sea, but it turned out to be ok) and SEAir even puts me on an earlier flight. In the check-in process they ask me myself to go and stand on the scale – with hand luggage. I was very surprised but understood later why was that.

Put your luggage in the back Sir...

Put your luggage in the back Sir...

When they called out that my flight to Manila was ready for boarding, I was the only one that got up. Strange. It turned out that I was the only one on the flight besides a Korean couple. The mini-airplane was a 19 seater propeller plane (of a brand I had never heard of: LET410 – hm, made in China?) and it looked more like a bus than a plane. You could see the back of the driver, well, the pilot in this case. The basic chairs were mounted on some home-made tubular welded frame construction. And it was definitely a bumpy ride.

Usually in flights you get some security briefing before the plane takes off – but that went a bit different on this one.

  • No “please stow your tray table” – because there were not tray tables
  • No “put the seat in the upright position” – because the chairs didn’t move (except for the one where a bolt or two were missing)
  • No “open the window shades” – because there were none
  • No “strictly no smoking in the toilet” – because there was no toilet on the mini-plane
  • No “life jackets under your seat” – but instead a sign saying ‘use seat cushion as floating device when landing on water’
  • No “place your hand luggage in the overhead lockers” – because there were no lockers, even your checked in luggage was stuck behind a net in the back of the cabin
  • No “fasten your seatbelts when the fasten-seatbelt-sign is on” – because there were no fasten seatbelt signs – and the shaky flight did not invite to undo your seatbelt
Is that the plane's manual the pilot reads?

Is that the plane's manual the pilot reads?

And anyway, there was no intercom loudspeaker system to make announcements anyway, so maybe that’s why they just got rid of any crew on the flight as well (besides the 2 pilots – fortunately ;-)…

So we had to content with the fumbled emergency card in the seat pocket in front of us to figure out what to do. Anyway, the nearest emergency exit was never more than 3 steps away in this small plane (6 rows of 1 + 2 seats only). On the card it even mentioned that this LET410 plane is able to land on both paved and UNpaved runways… Not sure if that reassured me or got me worried more. (and in the inflight magazine they also present the SEAir plane that can land on water – nice perspective before taking off…)

So without any warning – because no announcements – the plane started accelerating and making the noise of 100 simultaneous lawnmowers. Obviously the Caticlan runway was not very even (or our little plane was more sensitive to bumps) because we were hopping up and down like a little girl skipping over the runway.

The wind seemed to have waited till we finally managed to get airborne, and took over the playing of the little girl. This time the game was swinging. It was as if the wind held on to the nose of the plane and swung the tail of the plane sideways… So maybe they weighed the passengers to see if the plane would not be too light, because it would be blown away…

Maybe i need my Guardian angel for the SEAir flight...

Maybe i need my Guardian angel for the SEAir flight...

During the flight the Korean couple seemed to get into a serious existential fight, with crying and shouting (which one could not hear over the noise of the propeller motors). So once it looked that the pilots knew what they were doing (judging from the fact that one got out his sandwiches from his knapsack and the other one started combing his hair), I started having visions of an emotionally distressed Korean couple that would jump the pilots from behind to crash themselves to a solution of their love troubles

  • I was happy to land in Manila – despite the torrential rain that greeted us there…
  • It’s in those moments that you’re happy to be alive (still).

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