Monday, October 20, 2014

Philippine Airlines Flight Review: Manila to Hong Kong (Round-Trip)

Because I am a Paranoid Traveler, I arrived four hours ahead of my 10 a.m. flight to Hong Kong via my "home in the sky," Philippine Airlines. I had hoped that I would be allowed to fly the 8 a.m. flight but was told my fare code didn’t allow for it.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
So I had a lot of time to kill as check-in and immigration clearance took less than 15 minutes. It was a good thing that the chairs for the computer table were available this time after a long while so I just kept myself online. I then proceeded to our gate near boarding time and noticed that the seats were kind of cramped.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
One "kuyakoy" (leg swing) will lead to a kick in the shin.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Boarding commenced on time.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Things were pretty normal until a kid came along to take his seat behind my row but not without screaming (not crying, mind you) first. Upon sitting, he started slamming the window repeatedly prompting my window seat mate to shush him. The kid kept doing his thing so there was another reprimand but this time, the father defended his son's behavior saying he was just a little kid.

"Doesn't matter! This is a two-hour flight!" my seat mate shot back. She then called the flight attendant requesting to be transferred which was granted.

"Take me with you," I said in jest. That made her smile but she just couldn’t resist and turned around for one last look at the father telling him to teach his kid "some respect." The father cursed under his breath.

The kid's sibling behind me then started kicking my seat. I could hear the father telling his unruly kids to behave but the kid kept kicking. I was about to turn around when she stopped.

Take-off was smooth but a bit noisy as this same family decided to chitchat among themselves as if they were on a chartered plane with no sleeping passengers around them.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Newspapers were offered afterwards.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I wanted to try the In Air entertainment app but it was not offered on our flight.

Meals were then served to the kids first. I prayed that the unruly kids would be so stuffed that they would doze off for the remainder of the flight. Turns out it was just wishful thinking as it gave them sustaining energy leading to the resumption of kicks.

philippine airlines meal
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We had a choice between pork adobo and braised chicken and I chose the former which tasted like those awful microwaved foods. As I was gulping down my meal, I heard the attendant give out a shriek as a Coke bottle tipped over when she reached out for another bottle next to it, spilling some of the contents on the passengers seated across me. I tipped the bottle back to its proper place to prevent the contents from emptying entirely on them. The other attendants came with several moist towels and apologies. I tapped the passenger on the arm lightly and teased him about having the possibility of a free ticket. He chuckled, along with the attendant who overheard me and returned with an unopened juice for him as their way of making up for staining his Lacoste and his wife's Penguin shirts. I told him he should have gotten wine instead. He drawled, "The juice will just give me diabetes."

The duty free cart was rolled out and in the busyness of things, the male steward stepped on my exposed toe. But I guess his foot was so big that he didn’t feel my tiny toe whimper underneath its weight. He just kept walking.

The captain then announced the start of our descent. It was nothing unusual except that it seemed like a female voice. I asked the purser, “Did I hear her right? She’s our pilot?” She said yes nonchalantly like I was living in the dark ages for being surprised about having a female captain. I followed up wanting to know how many female pilots PAL has and she said, "We have quite a number, probably more than twenty flying different aircrafts."

Upon touchdown, the unruly kids gave one final loud scream and proceeded to chat with their mother for all to hear, probably including the pilot. The other passengers and I just exchanged looks.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As usual, immigration clearance was a breeze at Hong Kong International Airport but what was not usual was the time it took for our flight’s baggage to come out. We must have waited for twenty minutes before the first one appeared and banged against the carousel loudly. The passengers beside me started feeling sorry for the owners of the baggage that followed suit until one noticed he was observing his.

“Bah-bay, HK!”

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
And now it was time to go home. I did the in-town check-in service at Hong Kong Station and took the Airport Express afterwards.

I arrived three hours early but time passed quickly with so many distractions like the TV news report on the Umbrella Revolution, shops, restaurants, free (and fast) WiFi, and even an exhibit right next to our gate.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Then a ground crew member announced that they were ready to board Group C. The other passengers and I looked at each other perplexed as to what she meant. I then took out my boarding pass and saw which group I belonged to. That was the first time I encountered boarding by groups.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Like my earlier flight, there were two noisy kids behind me and a crying baby to my left. But unlike the previous flight, nobody complained to the parents. However, in fairness to the kids, as soon as we took off, they were so quiet that I had forgotten all about them.

philippine airlines meal
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Newspapers and meals were served. We had a choice between pan fried fish and lechon manok (roasted chicken). I have sworn off fish on flights as they tasted like frozen dinners. But when the chicken was served to me, I almost wanted to return it and have the fish instead. I do not lay claim to being a lechon connoisseur but I have never seen Andok’s or Baliwag serve something like this. I couldn't even tell what the sauce was so I gave up after a few bites. I lapped up on the green beans instead---and I don’t even like vegetables. 

I turned to the coffee cheesecake and it, too, did not taste like any cheesecake I have had. Once again, I do not claim to be a cheesecake expert but are coffee cheesecakes supposed to taste like yema thrown together with something that looked like pudding and crumby cake? It reminded me when as a kid, I used to mix a lot of food (Chippy on my instant noodles) or soft drinks (Royal, Coke and Sprite) together just to see how they would taste. And usually, they never tasted good but my brother and I enjoyed annoying our parents. I think our experiments tasted better than what I was served.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I then remembered to check PAL’s In Air flight entertainment app which was offered aboard this particular aircraft that we were on. Here is what it looks like per click.

PAL inAir
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine inAir
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines wireless flight entertainment
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines ife
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airline inAir
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine airlines inair
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I wish they also had TV shows particularly that travel show, "Asian Air Safari."

As I forgot to take out my earphones from my hand-carry stowed in the overhead bin, I decided to check out the magazines.

philippine airlines in-flight entertainment
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
pal inair
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I tapped on all the icons but nothing happened so I decided to try another.

pal in air wireless ife
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Okay, let’s just watch “Batman” without sounds.

wireless in flight entertainment philippine airlines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
pal ife
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
An hour into the flight, the (male) captain warned of some major turbulence due to rains in Manila and the crew was immediately ordered to their stations. This got my heart beating real fast and hard so I prayed equally fast and hard. God answered fast by making the baby cry out his lungs thus diverting my attention away from my anxiety. The noisy kids behind me resumed as well. A few minutes later, the seat belt sign was turned off with hardly a wiggle. (Thank You, Lord!) The captain then announced our arrival leading to one of the smoothest landings I have ever experienced.

philippine airlines flight review
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Immigration clearance was quick as I was second in line among many counters opened. Baggage claim wasn't as bad (by Philippine airport standards) as it took only fifteen minutes before mine came out and off I went to exit the airport looking forward to my comfortable bed and dogs.


Until next time!


---THE PARANOID TRAVELER

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NAIA Cited As One of the World's Worst Airports, Terminal Fee Intergration Postponed

In an all too familiar ritual, Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has received yet another rating as one of the world's worst airports, this time according to US website Cheat Sheet.

Image by hybridace101
Cheat Sheet has cited a number of issues including airport staff being impolite to passengers and long waiting times to be processed. Complaints were also cited regarding dilapidated offerings at the airport.  The report indicated that 32 million passengers are struggling to use the facility as it was originally designed for up to six million passengers.  

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport was voted among the world's worst alongside Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Begamo Orio al Serio Airport, New York's La Guardia Airport, Zurich International Airport, N’Djamena International Airport in Chad, Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, Little Rock Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, and Calcutta Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.

Image source: Sleepingairports.net
NAIA has consistently made the list of world's worst airports.  It last ranked at the top of the list of the world's worst airports on the website, The Guide to Sleeping Airports in 2013. Complaints of long queues, broken toilets, and air-conditioning units, as well as dishonest taxi pricing and limited public transport options have constantly plagued the airport. Since then, officials have made calls for improvements, particularly with how the taxes and fees collected from passengers are used. For instance, Senator Ralph Recto said "If a mall charges a mere P10 for the use of a hotel-like toilet, I can't see why a Filipino travelling abroad who pays P550 in terminal fees and P1,620 in travel tax should be entitled to less."  

The Manila International Airport has tried to address the problem by putting the 34-year old Terminal 1 under a massive renovation. Officials have estimated that the renovation will be completed by April 2015. In addition, five foreign carriers including Delta Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have all moved to the more modern Terminal 3 over the span of the last two months in an effort to decongest Terminal 1.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that passengers still have to pay P550 (US$12.75) in terminal fees up front before proceeding to passport control. In other countries, terminal fees are collected as part of the airline ticket purchase. The MIAA was originally planning to implement this on October 1 but has deferred that plan to November 1 in consideration to passengers likely to be negatively affected by the move.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Philippine Airlines Announces New York Flight in 2015, Expands other North American Services

In spite of a change in management, Philippine Airlines will continue with plans to fly to New York City on March 15, 2015.  

Copyright photo: Kenny Li/PPSG
During his announcement, PAL's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lucio Tan said that the launch of the New York flight is intended to coincide with the flag carrier's 74th anniversary of its founding.  

The new service to New York is expected to operate four times a week via Vancouver. PR126 will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.  It will depart Manila at 11:50pm and land in Vancouver at 8:50pm.  The flight resumes at 10:50pm and is expected to land in New York's John F. Kennedy Airport at 7:00am the following day.

The return flight, PR127, departs from New York at 11:00am and lands in Vancouver at 1:50pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  The return flight to the Philippines will resume at 3:20pm and land in Manila at 8:35pm the following day.

Statue of Liberty
Image by hybridace101
The New York service will be flown on an Airbus A340-300 (A343) aircraft.  Unlike PAL's flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, the A343 does not feature personalised in-flight entertainment (IFE) in economy class and has no provisions for charging laptops and mobile phones. However, the flag carrier is planning to extend its inAir wireless IFE system currently configured on its Airbus A330 aircraft to the A340 fleet.  The wireless in-flight entertainment system enables passengers with laptops or mobile devices to access PAL's IFE collection via a WiFi connection. Passengers who intend to use their mobile devices will need to download a special app prior to boarding. As part of the inAir service, access to internet is also available for a nominal charge. Passengers in economy class without their own device can rent an iPad for a fee.

PAL's upcoming service to New York marks the first time that the carrier will fly to the US city after a 17-year absence triggered by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. When it last flew to the Big Apple, Philippine Airlines used to fly to New York's Newark Liberty Airport. 

When the service begins in March 2015, Philippine Airlines will also become the second South East Asian carrier to have active service to New York.  Singapore Airlines currently operates an existing service to New York's JFK Airport via Frankfurt. Previously, the carrier operated non-stop service to New York which was cancelled in 2013.

Passengers originating in Manila currently have several options to get to New York. Philippine Airlines will not be the first carrier in the last decade to introduce a direct service between the two cities. Delta Airlines currently operates flights DL172/173 between the two cities via Tokyo-Narita. However, Delta will end its direct service between New York and Manila later this month as it will allocate another flight originating in a different US city to serve Manila. Passengers from the Philippines can also connect on Cathay Pacific with up to four daily non-stop flights between Hong Kong and New York with three serving JFK Airport and one serving Newark Liberty Airport. Other options for connecting flights are available via Seoul's Incheon Airport and Tokyo's Narita Airport on various Korean and Japanese carriers.  

ADDITIONAL FLIGHTS TO NORTH AMERICA BY PAL

New York will become the seventh North American city to be added to the Philippine Airlines' network. In addition, PAL currently serves Guam, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto.

As the flag carrier currently has full traffic rights between Vancouver and New York, PAL's flights to Vancouver will effectively be boosted from 7 to 11 flights weekly.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines will also add another frequency on Mondays between Manila and Toronto effective March 15. This will be in addition to the existing schedule that operates every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday between Manila and Toronto.

PAL will also increase service to Honolulu to daily flights from its current four weekly flights beginning on December 10. From December 12 until January 16, PAL will also mount additional flights between Manila and San Francisco. PR114 will depart Manila at 8pm and arrive in San Francisco at 5:20pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The return flight, PR115, will depart San Francisco at 7:50pm and arrive back in Manila at 3:50am.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ninoy Aquino International Airport to be Auctioned in 2015

The operations, maintenance, and redevelopment of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are slated to be auctioned off to the private sector by mid-2015, according to the Public Private Partnership Center.

Image by Wikimedia
According to the PPP Center's executive director, Cosette Canilao, firms submitted consultancy proposals to the centre valued at US$2-$3 million. The consultant that will be picked will conduct a feasibility study expected to take place between November 2014 and March 2015. In addition, the consultant firm will act as the government's adviser in the proposed transaction.  

The government agency hopes that they can bring the matter up to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) by May 2015.  She added that once the NEDA approves the proposal, they can begin the bidding by June or July of 2015.

Canilao reiterated the urgent nature of the project given the condition of the existing airport, adding that the project will "definitely" be awarded before the end of the Aquino administration.  In addition, she noted that accelerating the project to be implemented ahead of the pending deadline is also a possibility.

The move to privatise the airport's operations happens after several years of criticism, where the country's main gateway, particularly Terminal 1, has consistently received ratings as the worst airport in the world. Travellers constantly highlight congestion as one of the main concerns at the airport. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) estimates that the current Ninoy Aquino International Airport will be at overcapacity beginning next year and that passenger traffic would exceed 100 million by 2040.  

Philippine Airlines and All Nippon Airways Announce Partnership

Philippine Airlines and Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways have announced that they will enter into a commercial partnership that will include the operation of code-share flights and collaboration on frequent flyer programs.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Code-sharing between the Philippines and Japan is set to begin on October 26, while reciprocal frequent flyer privileges will commence simultaneously. The agreement is designed to benefit passengers travelling on both carriers by enhancing the level of choice and flexibility. However, the new commercial agreement is still subject to government regulatory approvals.

At present, both carriers operate a combined total of 74 flights between the two countries each week. Most recently, ANA and PAL both launched new services between Tokyo Haneda International Airport and Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

As part of the code-sharing agreement, Philippine Airlines will be adding its "PR" flight code to services operated by All Nippon Airways, while ANA will be introducing its "NH" flight code on flights operated by PAL. In addition, the code-sharing will extend beyond the international flights between the two countries to include domestic services within the Philippines and domestic flights within Japan.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Passengers travelling between the two countries and purchasing connecting tickets for domestic flights will now be able to check-in once for the entire journey with luggage checked through to the final destination. This will reduce the minimum connection time between flights from 120 minutes to 90 minutes when connecting to a domestic service.

Image Source: All Nippon Airways/CAPA
Philippine Airlines will be code-sharing on the following flights operated by All Nippon Airways:

  • Tokyo Haneda to Manila
  • Tokyo Haneda to Iwakuni
  • Tokyo Haneda to Kumamoto
  • Tokyo Haneda to Miyazaki
  • Tokyo Haneda to Kagoshima
  • Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami
  • Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo
  • Tokyo Haneda to Tokushima
  • Tokyo Haneda to Nagasaki
  • Tokyo Narita to Manila
  • Tokyo Narita to Niigata
  • Tokyo Narita to Komatsu
  • Tokyo Narita to Osaka Itami
  • Tokyo Narita to Sapporo
  • Tokyo Narita to Sendai
  • Nagoya to Miyazaki
  • Nagoya to Sendai
  • Nagoya to Sapporo
  • Fukuoka to Okinawa
  • Fukuoka to Osaka Itami
  • Fukuoka to Sendai 
  • Fukuoka to Miyazaki
  • Fukuoka to Komatsu

Image Source: All Nippon Airways/CAPA
All Nippon Airways will be code-sharing on the following flights operated by Philippine Airlines:

  • Manila to Caticlan
  • Manila to Cebu
  • Manila to Bacolod
  • Manila to Davao
  • Manila to Fukuoka
  • Manila to Dumaguete
  • Manila to Kalibo
  • Manila to Laoag
  • Manila to Nagoya
  • Manila to Osaka Kansai
  • Manila to Tacloban
  • Manila to Puerto Princesa
  • Manila to Tagbilaran
  • Manila to Tokyo Haneda
  • Manila to Tokyo Narita
  • Cebu to Tokyo Narita

Image Source: All Nippon Airways/CAPA
Meanwhile, passengers travelling on either carrier will be able to take advantage of free shuttle buses operated by Philippine Airlines between Terminals 2 and 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. All Nippon Airways currently operates from Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while Philippine Airlines primarily operates from Terminal 2, with select flights at Terminal 3.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Philippine Airlines is currently in the process of seeking a foreign carrier as an investor and strategic partner to complement the existing ownership of the Lucio Tan Group. Earlier this year, Philippine Airlines announced a strategic partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. PAL is still in need of code-sharing partners in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cathay Pacific Moves to NAIA Terminal 3

On September 30, Cathay Pacific (CX) flights CX913 and CX905 docked at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 for the very first time. The arrival of the flights from Hong Kong signalled the official transfer of Cathay Pacific from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.  

Image Copyright: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
A water salute greeted one of the arriving flights, while the first Cathay Pacific departures from Terminal 3 commenced the following morning on October 1. Both CX904 and CX912 departed at their regularly scheduled times.

Although the terminals have changed, the number of flights being operated by Cathay Pacific to Manila have not changed. Scheduled arrival and departure times also remain the same.  However, Cathay Pacific is slated to add a seventh daily flight between its Hong Kong hub and Manila on October 26. The new flight, CX935, will depart Hong Kong at 5:50pm and arrive in Manila at 7:50pm. The return flight, CX934, will depart Manila at 8:55pm and arrive back in Hong Kong at 11:05pm.

With up to six flights currently being flown each day between Manila and Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific provides the most number of flights out of Manila by any foreign carrier. Consequently, its move to Terminal 3 is expected to significantly reduce congestion at the 33-year old Terminal 1.

Although all flights operated by Cathay Pacific will now be serviced at Terminal 3, the Hong Kong carrier will continue to maintain a presence in Terminal 1 through its sister carrier Dragonair, which will continue to operate out of Terminal 1 until further notice.

THE FIRST FIVE FOREIGN CARRIERS TO TRANSFER TO NAIA 3

The transfer of Cathay Pacific signals the completion of the transfers of the first five foreign carriers from the thirty year old Terminal 1 to the recently completed Terminal 3. Delta Airlines became the first foreign carrier to use the facility on August 1, followed by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines three days later.  Emirates became the third carrier to move in on August 15 and Singapore Airlines started operations from Terminal 3 on September 1.

Image by hybridace101
Some of the foreign carriers operating at Terminal 3 held special events to commemorate the occasion. Singapore Airlines had a seat sale for its first week of operations at Terminal 3, offering a 50% discount off the lowest regular fare. Meanwhile, Emirates is bringing its flagship A380 aircraft to Manila for a one-time commercial flight on October 7 to celebrate the airline's transfer.

However, industry observers are speculating whether this special A380 flight operated by Emirates will serve as a test for the possibility of introducing regular A380 service to Manila. Emirates is due to lose one of its daily flights between Dubai and Manila after the Civil Aeronautics Board forced Philippine Airlines and Emirates to discontinue their code-sharing relationship. Using the A380 aircraft could help Emirates to maintain its current capacity in the important Philippine market. 

The Manila International Airport Authority is hoping that the transfer of some of the foreign carriers to Terminal 3 will lead to the decongestion of Terminal 1, which was previously handling up to eight million passengers a year -- well above its designed capacity of 4.5 million passengers.

THE RECENTLY COMPLETED NAIA TERMINAL 3

With the recent completion of Terminal 3, the facility now features a much wider array of shopping and dining facilities compared to Terminal 1 both on the landside and airside. Rival coffee houses Seattle's Best Coffee and Bo's Coffee are found on the airside of the international wing. In addition, National Bookstore operates a store in both the domestic and international wings.

Image by hybridace101
A multi-level parking facility serves passengers, visitors, and staff of Terminal 3. Unlike the other terminals at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, friends and relatives can accompany passengers inside the building until the security checks after check-in. In addition, selected carriers also offer self-service check-in machines for passengers.

Image by hybridace101