Philippine Airlines (PAL) reaching for the stars!
I have just come back from a relaxing 10 days in my homeland the Philippines, visiting my folks, catching up with friends and all the extended family members. Everything went smoothly the moment I stepped onboard my Philippine Airlines flight from Sydney to Manila and onwards to Davao and vice-versa. Considering the drama that has taken place before I flew out, the Xiamen airline incident that paralysed airport operations for few days as well as lingering wrath of recent super-typhoon.
I’m prompted to blog about how impressive my flights were with Philippines Airlines – PAL. They deserve a hats off salute for a very much improved ground and inflight service! I flew on the recently launched brand spanking new A321neo, a long range next generation narrow body aircraft from the Airbus family.
Recently, Philippine Airlines was Certified with a 4-Star Airline Rating for the quality of its onboard product and service standards. Also, secured second place as the world’s most improved airline in 2018 according to the largest airline passenger survey conducted by Skytrax (World Airline Awards). A prominent logo confirming its status, so let’s check it all out:
PR 214 Sydney to Manila Economy Seat 32H
PR 213 Manila to Sydney Economy Seat 41K
Outbound / Inbound:
PR 214 departs Sydney at 06:00 and arrives in Manila at 11:55. To be quite honest, I like this schedule, you leave early for the airport beating the morning rush hour traffic which is a recurring issue in Sydney right now. Arriving at lunch time in Manila is a another bonus, I find it easier to transfer to your destination at this time of day and if you’re staying in a hotel, the opportunity to check-in on the dot by 2:00 is a pleasant change. The 7 hr 55 minutes flying time will give you plenty of time to rest. All window shades were kept down and the cabin lights dimmed throughout our flight except when meals were served.
PR 213 departs Manila at 11:15 and arrives in Sydney at 21:00. I find this perfectly timed as well for many reasons! It gives enough time to prep in the morning, have breakfast then check out, depending of course where you’re coming from in Manila, transferring to the airport can be a bit hit and miss, so allow some extra travelling time. I flew out on a Sunday and from Makati where I stayed it only took 30 minutes to the airport. When we landed in Sydney, we were the only group of passengers queuing for immigration and customs clearance. I was out in less than 30 minutes, arrived home and still managed to get back in the swing of things, unpacking and updating my social media before bedtime and getting things ready for work the following day!
Both flights generally departed and arrived close to time!
As a brand new aircraft, it is spotless! Business class has 12 fully-flat bed seats in a 2-2 layout whilst economy has 156 seats. The light blue colour scheme from business continues with a light grey accent flowing through to economy with a 3-3 configuration, seat pitch is at 33 inches and can recline to 6 inches with adjustable headrest wings. I must say 41K (window – exit row) was a very comfortable seat with heaps of legroom. Seat 32H is an aisle seat on a two seater configuration. The economy seats has two headrest colours, blue on the left and green on the right.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE):
Sit back, relax and enjoy! Every seat has an individual seatback screen featuring movies on demand, Asian movies, tv shows, music and my most favourite watching the flight path. Seats are also fitted with a USB power point. Stay connected with a free Wi-fi for 15 minutes – 5mb or surf longer with fairly affordable plans.
Both flights provide a small amenity kit which includes socks, eye mask, toothpaste and toothbrush which added a nice little yet disappearing touch, take note other airlines… Blanket, small cushion and headset were already on my seat when I boarded. Toilets were bright with plenty of room, a hand wash, cologne and lotion were provided.
Full breakfast (no menu) was served between Sydney and Manila! I chose the hot egg omelette served with spinach tomato and potato along with a roll and fresh fruits which didn’t disappoint. The disposable cutlery consists of plastic fork, spoon and knife. Filipinos love their coffee with coffee mate, so expect a powdered creamer instead of fresh milk.
Bottled water was served by the crew during the flight and hot towels for a freshen up were also offered before a small snack an hour or so prior to arrival in Manila. The warm chicken bread roll (pandesal) came in an individual box together with a sweet pastry, a choice of water, juice, coffee and tea for washing it down. No alcohol was served during this flight.
Manila to Sydney has a full catering service. Once the aircraft had levelled up, the crew started to distribute the lunch menu, rarely can you find a big printed airline menu these days in economy. The offerings consist of alcoholic / non beverages, cold / hot drinks and hot meals. A light snack was served before arrival into Sydney.
My pick was the Pork Belly Sinugba (grilled) in spiced vinegar dip with pickled papaya and Visayan rice, a Filipino delight. The rice was fluffy with hint of tomato sauce, pork had not lost its smokey and tender texture although it was packed obviously a few hours before the flight. The sides complemented all the dishes and was washed down by Maison Sabadie Vin De France white wine. A small packet of dried mango and chocolate made up the dessert.
PAL is high on my list as my preferred airline of choice between Sydney and Manila and all my domestic flights in the Philippines. Once onboard, I’m practically back in the Philippines and they offer good package-promos like free domestic flights on some of their routes and generous luggage allowance. In recent years they have lifted the bar high with a more personalised customer experience both on the ground and onboard. PAL is now ranked 49th in the world and the second most improved airline for 2018. I can only see this rising higher, as the little things we all once enjoyed with the other “BIG” players, like the amenity kits and other touches, should certainly bring back those PAL smiles. All my flights this trip were crewed by a younger and more approachable crew. My only gripe is the lack of facilities at Terminal 2 in Manila, like a quiet area or a restaurant/bar for non-business class passengers.
Now flying some of the world’s most advanced and modern fleet of aircraft, PAL, I’m pretty sure one day will reach it’s goal to be one of the top airlines in the world. Next time, I’m aiming to fly with Philippine Airlines latest acquisition the almighty Airbus 350 XWB. Mabuhay!
Visit Philippine Airlines for all the latest travel promos, flight sales, and offers @ https://www.philippineairlines.com/en
These flights were not sponsored.
Regrettably, PR stands little or no chance of going higher than 4 stars (or even maintaining that rating over the long term) if its drive to improve keeps getting hobbled by the appalling state of its home base. The departures area of MNL Terminal 2 isn’t all that bad – I love the architecture, for one – but the arrivals zone is a complete shambles, in terms of both infrastructure and operations.
Which is a real shame, as I do love their onboard service, and their new planes are a cause for optimism. Let’s just hope – for the sake of their long-term prospects – that PR can improve the ground experience sooner rather than later, before lasting damage is dealt against the reputation they’re now investing so heavily to improve.
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Hi Diego, thanks for dropping by.
The 4-star rating award/second most improved airlines is a big achievement of the Philippine flag carrier. A week ago or so, according to their website, PAL was awarded again with Four Star Major Regional Award Airline honours for 2019 by Airline Passenger Experience (APEX), 3 awards this year, how brilliant! It’ll be nice if they can make it to top 20 at least and able to maintain their service standards as expectation is high right now.
About my whinge of Terminal 2, it is not fit for purpose as an international gateway in its current form, especially the lack of proper facilities that you would expect to find in other terminals the world over.