Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Philippine Airlines Begins 2015 with $85 Million Profit

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines began the year with a positive start, posting a net profit of USD $85 million in the first quarter of 2015. The profit reflects continued prosperity at the carrier, which recently endured three consecutive years of losses including a USD $20.72 million net loss posted in the same quarter the previous year.

a330 philippine airlines
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
In spite of a transition in leadership from San Miguel Corporation to the Lucio Tan Group, PAL President Jaime Bautista has been able to maintain the positive turn around that was first established under San Miguel leadership.

"We need to consolidate and build on these gains to strengthen the foundation for future growth, aware that we operate in a very volatile environment," said Jaime Bautista, President of Philippine Airlines. "As always, we remain focused on our goal of transforming PAL into the airline of choice in all markets it serves."

In a statement released by the national flag carrier, it was revealed that the profit in the first quarter was a direct result of an increase in passenger traffic on new international routes and an expansion of the carrier's domestic network.

Earlier this year, Philippine Airlines reopened its Cebu hub and opened a number of new domestic flights including new service to Tablas, Romblon three times weekly. In addition, PAL restored service to New York on March 15. The four weekly flights operate via Vancouver, Canada.

Philippine Airlines served nearly 3 million passengers in the first quarter of 2015. Revenues in the first quarter rose 30 percent from P21.53 billion in 2014 to P27.98 billion in 2015. The carrier has been much more aggressive in its sales and marketing efforts, which it believes has helped to improve passenger yields.

Revenues at the carrier outpaced increased operating expenses, which are largely attributed to an increase in flight operations. Declining fuel costs helped to keep expenses under control with jet fuel dropping in price to US $83.28 per barrel in the first quarter of 2015 versus US $130.92 per barrel a year earlier.

Philippine Airlines has also continued with its fleet modernization program, transitioning to a modern fleet of fuel efficient aircraft. The improved fuel efficiency has helped the carrier to reduce its annual operating costs. In the first quarter of this year, PAL accepted delivery of two new A321 aircraft, while it retired four ageing A340 aircraft and two A330 aircraft.

In the last year, Philippine Airlines has optimised its operations transitioning its lucrative US routes from inefficient Boeing 747 aircraft to the modern Boeing 777, the new flagship aircraft of the fleet. In addition, PAL has increased flights to Honolulu, opened new service to Tokyo Haneda, and launched a number of new international routes from Cebu and Kalibo to Japan and South Korea.

Philippine Airlines Flight Review: Manila to Melbourne

From previous experience, my party of two decided to be at NAIA Terminal 2 with plenty of time to spare. We checked in via the business class queue as my Mabuhay Miles Elite membership allowed it. The check-in lady was not overly communicative but I obtained seats in the second last publicly available row, where there is an aisle and a window seat missing the middle (third) seat.

a330 philippine airlines
Copyright Photo: Florent Pereaudeau/Flickr
I was then to my surprise directed past the lower numbered T2 international check in counters to find that Immigration had recently opened an exclusive processing area for foreigners at the opposite end of the airport, far from the Mabuhay Miles lounge and gate S2 where Australian bound flights to Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney always depart. There were only two foreigners ahead of me and my wife, a Filipino citizen, who was allowed to join me for fast processing. I thought this was a good move by the Manila International Airport Authority and the Bureau of Immigration.

A few minutes later I plonked myself at a table in the Mabuhay Miles lounge. I would only rate it three stars. While it has been renovated and is far better than the previous facility, there is only one unisex shower and the limited hot snacks (chicken bites and sandwiches) are only kept lukewarm by the so called heat lamps. There were some super sweet (at least to Western palates) miniature cakes and I do not like the arroz caldo that is always also on offer. The tables were often occupied by only one or two persons despite being designed for at least three. There were at least 80 passengers in the lounge as evening flights to Australia, Canada and USA were due out through the mid and late evening. I felt envious of USA and Canadian bound passengers, many of whom would travel on PAL's Boeing 773ERs with in-seat personal entertainment for every traveller.

With my flight due to depart at 21:20pm, I made my way to the preflight screening to find a queue of about 60 given that Tuesday night is busy with all three Australian flights (Melbourne, Sydney and an Airbus A320 to Darwin and Brisbane) timetabled.

As usual I had to present my passport and boarding pass for verification, then a pleasant girl rummaged through my backpack. One no longer has to remove shoes or belts so that was a relief.

The boarding area was extremely crowded. A number of passengers complained that they had received two days' notice of cancellation of the Monday evening Sydney flight. I had also noticed that the following night's Sydney flight was showing as 'cancelled.' I thought this was odd because PAL had only just increased its Sydney flights to daily from October 2014. Was this another 'Perth case' I idly wondered, given that when it started daily flights to Darwin, the four a week continuing on from there to Perth only lasted three months.

The ground staff realised that passengers were getting edgy and at about 21:00pm announced that the Melbourne aircraft 'required additional servicing.' We waited, and waited. By 21:50pm I observed on PAL's website that the Melbourne flight had been delayed until 22:40pm. The staff informed me that they had only just become aware of this as they failed to announce it to passengers until I asked why we were further delayed.

At 22:20pm we finally boarded.

I was surprised to find RP-C8766, a two month old Airbus A330 as the operating aircraft.

It turned out that effective from 1 February 2015, PAL had reduced its Manila - Sydney and return flights to five a week (from daily) but kept Melbourne flights at three a week. Concurrently, the Airbus A340's were withdrawn from these two destinations and replaced with Airbus A330's that with 378 seats have a much higher passenger capacity.

When boarding, I could see Premium Economy seats to the left. The 18 much criticised angular business class seats were barely visible.

business class philippine airlines
Image Source: Mabuhay Magazine
We had 282 passengers so I was unable to secure a block of three seats on which to lie down. The last three rows of two seats on one side were unavailable due to being used for crew rest and had a curtain placed around them soon after we levelled out.

We took off at 22:46pm and were airborne 15 minutes later without any delays. Within 70 minutes we had a main meal that was distributed by a male cabin attendant from the back galley without the use of a trolley for my chicken dish, which was acceptable if a bit dry. The dessert cake was super sweet. As usual, there was no pre dinner drinks offered using a trolley.

Sleep was difficult but there were no screaming babies. 70 per cent of passengers were Filipino but there were some passengers who had connected from mainland China on board, as well as quite a few Caucasians.

I spoke with the purser and eventuially obtained a spare pre loaded iPad. Its range of entertainment was poor while the InAir service requires payment of a fee so my travelling companion declined the latter.

Lights went on about 7:00am for the roll type breakfast.

We arrived in Melbourne at 9:40am, 65 minutes late with a long serving ground staff member asking four Wellington, NZ bound Qantas connecting passengers to hurry off the aircraft and to push their way past others standing on the aircraft.

All in all this was a reasonable flight but we need the B777's back on the Sydney and Melbourne runs.

-Surface Traveller


Monday, May 4, 2015

Cebu Pacific Flight Review: Roxas to Manila

As many consider prudent, I booked well in advance on Cebu Pacific's Thursday afternoon Tigerair Philippines flight from Roxas City,Capiz, Panay to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Image Credit: aeroprints/Wikimedia
Before I departed Australia for the Philippines, I received an email from Cebu Pacific stating that my originally scheduled flight had been cancelled. The carrier then enquired as to whether I was willing to travel on the sole daily Cebu Pacific flight the next day, a Friday.

Unwisely as things would turn out, I accepted the offer.

Finding ourselves at a loose end in Roxas City, I subsequently called Cebu Pacific (which lacks a toll free number) to enquire about again altering the flight to the Thursday departure, not Friday's. My reasoning was that the airline should agree since it was Cebu Pacific that had cancelled the original flight booking -- not a choice I had made.

A male answered. I explained the situation. He said 'I understand your concerns.' He then said that it was not possible to transfer flights for free.

I asked again. The same reply came down the line.

I then asked to speak with a supervisor. I was placed on hold for five minutes and then the male call centre operator spoke, saying that 'no supervisor was available.'

Frustrated, I asked how much Cebu Pacific wanted to change the fare. The reply was short: P4600 per passenger. With that, I terminated the call.

So after a short trip by efficient tricycle to the small Roxas City Airport, we arrived to a defective X-Ray machine that necessitated examination of bags by a lady.

We were then checked in although the staff members made no effort to explain to us or other passengers whether the allocated seats were over the wing, aisle, middle or window. To any experienced traveller, this is known, but in a nation of 100 million, there must still be many first time flyers. Our bags were accepted without question.

We proceeded to the gate lounge that had an open area through which one could easily wander onto the airport apron and tarmac as there was only a portable divider stopping this. Naturally, no one did such a silly thing.

We waited and waited. Eventually Cebu Pacific's A320 aircraft, registered RP-C3250 (first flight 15 January 2009, capacity 179 passengers) arrived late at 11:28am.

160 passengers alighted via either the front or rear stairs, both of which were in use. Some older folks took the stairs slowly but none required assistance.

A line formed for boarding, which occurred at 11:55am. However once on board, the first officer informed us that Manila air traffic control was delaying takeoff until 12:15pm. As the plane should have been off blocks at 11:45am, this would make us about 20 minutes late.

We departed at 12:08pm and took off right on the amended time at 12:15pm. The crew played the infamous Cebu Pacific 'game' that consisted of the same three questions I had already memorised on two earlier January 2015 flights. The prizes were slightly more valuable purses than I had seen before, but hardly anything to get excited about.

Despite the agreed later departure, the 130 passengers and crew were forced to endure the further 'enjoyment' of being in a holding pattern for about seven minutes prior to landing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

Arrival at Terminal 3 was 35 minutes late at 13:25pm, showing the continuing effect that congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport has had on airline networks. My luggage came off the belt by 14:15pm - a good effort given that we had transferred by bus from a remote hardstand, not used an aerobridge - and I then had the joy of waiting for 90 minutes for a yellow airport taxi outside the otherwise pleasant T3 at NAIA.

-Surface Traveller

Cathay Pacific Flight Review: Manila to Hong Kong (Round-Trip)

Whenever I fly out of Manila, I'm usually one of the handful of early passengers to check in. But this time for my trip to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific, the line was already snaking several times over by the time I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.



naia terminal 3
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Even the web check-in line provided no relief, which is just as well for me. I tried twice to avail of it but I kept getting a "service unavailable" message so I had to contend with the regular lines.

cathay pacific ninoy aquino airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I then asked one of the staff why service was crawling. She attributed it to an unusually large number of passengers. But looking around, I think the number is just average for a world-class airline like Cathay Pacific.

After checking in, I proceeded to the travel tax counter as I booked my flight online. While paying, I asked if I could pay the tax first to save time before checking in. Although it was possible, they said they prefer that I check in first.

All in all, it took me almost an hour to finish the pre-immigration process while suffering from the non-functioning air-conditioner. NAIA!!!

In contrast, immigration was quick with a lot of counters opened and segregated to Philippine passport holders, foreigners and senior citizens & PWDs. (The air-conditioner there was a lot cooler but still not sufficient to stand the summer heat outside.)

cathay pacific manila airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
While waiting for my flight, Singapore Airlines announced that underneath some seats at its gate were Easter egg tags that led to (unstated) prizes. This was the very first time I heard of an airline conducting a parlor game which I think is nice and helpful to while the time away. Too bad the same did not occur with my airline at that time.

cathay pacific manila airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

cathay pacific 777-200
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Boarding was on time and orderly with the seat numbers for queuing carefully observed. Those who tried to jump the line were asked to wait for their turn.

I forgot that there was an option for premium economy when I booked my flight but my regret lasted for only a nanosecond as I saw how comfortable and spacious my economy seat was.

cathay pacific 777-200 cabin
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We had our own in-flight entertainment (IFE) which I used to watch some TED talks and documentaries. The volume was kind of erratic with some shows insufficient even though it was turned all the way up.

cathay pacific manila to hong kong
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I like how the IFE offered more than just entertainment, giving gate information for those with connecting flights.


cathay pacific snack
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Blankets were offered for free and a snack of chicken and egg turnover and mango juice were served after take-off. The food was neither here nor there---not great but not terrible. Duty-free shopping was introduced with a 15% discount for those spending at least HK$2000. I thought I would pass.

cathay pacific 777-200
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
When it was almost time to descend, the pilot announced that we would be using another terminal because of the Easter rush in Hong Kong. (If our Easter holiday in the Philippines starts from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday, in Hong Kong, it starts from Easter Sunday to Tuesday so Hong Kong International Airport was busier than usual.)


hkia
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

hkia
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I expected immigration to be very busy but there were only half of the usual lines. I guess the rush meant people were rushing out of Hong Kong. But no matter how fast the process was, luggage retrieval was still faster than in Manila as mine was already waiting when I came out. Paging NAIA....


SO LONG, HONG KONG!

hong kong airline city check in
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
What I love about flying Philippine Airlines and Cathay Pacific is that they have counters at the in-town check-in. You get to check in even before reaching the airport, giving you time to enjoy the city more on your last day.

hong kong check in for airlines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
For more information on the in-town check-in service, click here.

hong kong airport shuttle
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
It takes a little under an hour to reach the airport from Hong Kong Station.

hkia
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
hong kong international airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
HKIA’s free internet is usually fast and reliable but when I tried using one of the computers here, I could not figure out how to log in. The screen wouldn’t budge and the guy there was too busy to help me out so I just took out my iPad.

hong kong international airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This is one guy who’s clearly ready to make the waiting time worth his while.

hong kong international airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As soon as the ground crew uttered the first three words of their boarding announcement, people started lining up real fast. I thought I would never see the end of the line and I wasn’t the last one to queue up!

business class cathay pacific
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The seat in the business class which, alas, isn’t where I belong. Moving on….

economy cathay pacific
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
One can’t be bitter though about being an economy passenger at Cathay with its amenities.

cathay pacific 777-300er safety card
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Departure was delayed by 30 minutes for reasons I can’t remember now. While waiting, one of the attendants came up to the person seated two seats from me asking him to store his hand-carry in the overhead which was already full. She managed to tuck it still but minutes later, when the compartment was opened, the hand-carry fell out. Good thing it landed on the floor. This prompted the owner to mutter under his breath the possibility of somebody getting injured.

cathay pacific in flight entertainment
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 But that was not any of my business so I turned on the IFE and was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite shows, “Midsomer Murders.” I was busy enjoying the show so much that I didn’t mind the turbulent start of the flight. The discomfort came from the show actually with a brief nude scene. Call me prude but I was embarrassed. Didn’t think something like that would be allowed on a flight where children are present.

cathay pacific meal
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The snack this time consisted of chicken adobo wrap and mango juice in an earth-friendly packaging. I enjoyed the juice more than the food where the chicken played hide and seek with my taste buds.

cathay pacific 777-300er cabin
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The crew was very attentive and professional, as to be expected but they were kind of loud when talking to the passengers and each other.

cathay pacific in flight entertainment
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
A neat feature of the IFE was the option to watch what’s going on outside the plane. Upon descent, I switched from the usual TV shows to watch our plane land on a drizzly summer night.

cathay pacific manila airport
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Immigration clearance was quick but the waiting time for our luggage to come out took some time. Upon descending the escalator, a Cathay staffer was there to assist us. I would have appreciated him all the more if he didn’t sound and look tired as he mumbled, “Cathay Pacific.” He stretched his arm and finger weakly to point the way. How weak? They didn’t even reach higher than his elbow.

I noticed that the first set of luggage that came out was from a connecting flight from Los Angeles, USA. I could tell because they were marked with a US address. While waiting for my luggage, I was standing close to the carousel until I found myself being pushed back with people who inserted themselves. When they trickled out, I was back at the front but new passengers started crowding me out. They didn’t even budge to give me space either when they saw me pulling my humongous luggage from the belt. They only moved when I sneered, “Excuuuuse me!”

Over-all, I enjoyed flying Cathay Pacific which wasn’t something totally unexpected. The only reason I have not flown with them for ages was because I have always assumed our local airlines were always cheaper. They might be but not all the time as I was able to book this flight with rates that were competitive for as long as my schedule was flexible. Actually, it may not even be right to say the rates were competitive because the seats were bigger and more comfortable, I had IFE, I had free snacks and I had free use of a blanket. This is real value for hard-earned money. Thank you, CX! And thank you, my PFN editor, for suggesting it!

---THE PARANOID TRAVELER---

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Air Juan Seaplane Offers Flights Between Boracay and Palawan

Several months after Philippine charter carrier Air Juan launched direct flights from Coron to Boracay and Puerto Princesa, the unique float plane service, considered the fastest flight between the Philippines' hottest tourist destinations has been growing in popularity. 

boracay to coron flights
Image Source: Air Juan Pilot's Blog
Last September, Air Juan launched direct flights between Boracay and Coron every Tuesday and Saturday using a brand new Cessna Grand Caravan EX Seaplane. On Thursdays and Sundays, Air Juan also operates flights between Coron and Puerto Princesa. 

According to Air Juan's Chief Marketing Officer, Tina Di Cicco, the airline promises not only a brand new aircraft but a brand new experience as well. "Not only will we have brand new aircraft using the latest in aviation technology, we also make sure that our aircraft is in the best condition every single flight to bring you to your destination in class and style," said Di Cicco.

boracay to coron flights
Image Source: Coron Information/Facebook
The service is now the fastest link between two of the nation's most popular tourist destinations. There are currently no other scheduled flights between Coron and Boracay. The forty-five minute charter flight operates from Godofredo Ramos International Airport in Caticlan and the Francisco Reyes Airport in Coron. "This new Air Juan route lets you spend your time in your destination, not on the journey there," said Di Cicco. Air Juan is also offering service from Puerto Princesa to the Cuyo Islands, located in the Sulu Sea, and plans to eventually launch service from Coron to El Nido

The new service is an ideal fit for these two destinations as many resorts in Boracay will begin sending their guests to their sister resorts in Coron. According to Mayor Fem Reyes of Coron, exit surveys conducted by the Coron Tourism Office revealed that a direct flight between Coron and Boracay has been at the top of the tourist wishlist. "We're glad Air Juan made this great and bold decision," added Reyes. 

boracay to palawan flights
Image Source: Busuanga Bay Lodge/Facebook
Prior to the launch of non-stop flights between Boracay and Coron, tourists had to endure a 12-hour ferry ride or fly back to Manila or Cebu for a connecting flight, which could easily take up to 8 hours. The new service cuts travel time to a mere 45 minutes with fares beginning as low as P3,499 each way including 10 kilograms of luggage allowance. 

The flight between Coron and Boracay covers a distance of nearly 200 kilometres. Not only does the flight offer the fastest and most direct route between the islands, but it also offers the most scenic flight with the aircraft only cruising at an altitude of up to 9,000 feet depending on weather conditions. 

Boracay Island is the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines and the most visited place in the nation after Manila, while Coron is the second most popular destination in Palawan. Flights between the two destinations can be reserved through Air Juan partner agents in Boracay and Palawan

With countless coves, lagoons, and endless beaches, the Philippines is an ideal place to travel by seaplane. Tourists can enjoy a unique and memorable experience flying directly to their favourite seaside resort or island directly from harbour to beach and without the hassle of airport security.

The Air Juan Cessna Grand Caravan EX Seaplane is equipped with the latest avionics, air conditioning, and 8 comfortable leather seats, which offer stunning views of the beautiful islands of the Philippines.  The passenger windows on board the aircraft are designed specially for adventure and scenic flights. Tourists curious about the experience of flying across the nation's 7,107 islands on board a sea plane can read first hand stories and reports from Air Juan's Seaplane Pilot Blog

boracay to coron flights
Image Source: Busuanga Bay Lodge/Facebook
Charter flights, scenic tours, and regular service is also provided by Air Juan to select northern Palawan resorts such as Busuanga Bay Lodge, Puerto Del Sol Resort, and even Shangri-La on Boracay. The Manila-based company offers a range of aircraft including business jets and helicopters, which are all available for private charter. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Qatar Airways A380 Flight Review: London to Doha (Business Class)

I had seen the A380 demonstrator when it visited the Philippines a couple of years ago.  I was impressed by it, especially the fact that after walking the length of the huge main deck, I climbed the wide stairs up to another huge deck above it!  This coupled with the fact that I got to sit in the pilot’s seat really impressed me.  I wanted to ride on that big airplane!



Copyright Photo: Qatar Airways A380 / Airliners.net
My chance came late last year when I visited London and flew Qatar Airways.  Just prior to my flight from London to Doha, Qatar Airways had inaugurated A380 service on the route and I made sure to reserve the A380 flight.

After check-in and security, I went to the Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge.  Talk about nice -- the lounge in London is only rivalled by their lounge in the new airport at Doha.  The lounge offers dining service just like a proper restaurant. 

qatar airways business class
Qatar Airways Lounge, London Heathrow.
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
A waiter gives you the menu and after making your selections, the food is delivered together with whatever you care to drink. The food is good, the service great, and no bill!  Unfortunately, I overdid it in the lounge and had no appetite for what looked like a very respectable in flight meal. 

qatar airways lounge london
Qatar Airways Lounge, London Heathrow
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Boarding in the lounge is announced about 30 minutes prior to the flight. It is a simple process, which is made much nicer because the lounge is just across a corridor from the gate used by Qatar Airways.  



qatar airways lounge heathrow
Qatar Airways Lounge, London Heathrow
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Business and First classes board through a special air bridge directly to the upper deck of the A380.  The aircraft was all shiny and new, having been in service for only a few weeks.  Believe me -- it is big indeed and very impressive.

qatar airways a380 business class
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
qatar airways a380 business class
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Business Class seating allows for individual, private areas with comfortable 22-inch wide seats that fully recline. 

qatar airways a380 business class
Comfort in the Air: The Qatar A380 Business Class Seat
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN

Qatar Airways' “Oryx” in flight entertainment system is second to none and there is a very wide selection of movies, music, and television programs to help passengers relax and enjoy the flight.

qatar airways a380 business class
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
I had a window seat overlooking the A380’s massive wing. It is immense and one cannot be blamed for wondering just how such a huge machine can fly!

qatar airways a380 business class
The A380's Massive Wing
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Shortly after being seated, pre-take off drinks were offered along with other amenities.  Soon thereafter, the doors were closed and we began push back. Sitting by the window, I was rather transfixed at observing just how ponderously the A380 moves along to its take-off position.  But move-along it does and soon we were lined up on one of Heathrow’s long runways.

Take off was surprisingly normal and the take off run did not seem any longer than that of a Boeing 777. The climb out of London Heathrow was smooth and soon we were cruising along at our assigned altitude, on the way to Doha. One thing that became apparent almost immediately was how strangely quiet the A380 is. Being up and above the engines, their noise dissipates below the wing, rendering the quietest cabin I have flown in to date. The flight was also very smooth.

Truly, the A380 impressed me in almost every way because everything is bigger, or so it seems.  The bathrooms on Qatar Airways A380 are larger than on smaller planes. (I could actually turn around in one and change clothes without difficulty.) But the big surprise is the bar-lounge on the plane -- aft of the business class cabin.  It is large and spacious, providing business and first class passengers with an opportunity to stand up, stretch their legs, have a drink, and socialize as the flight progresses.  

There are seats in the lounge and in case of turbulence, these seats are equipped with seat belts for passengers. I haven’t seen this type of thing since years ago when Continental Airlines had the Backgammon Lounges on its wide body aircraft or Gulf Air had its lounges on its Tri-Star aircraft.  Most lounges were taken out to jam in more seats. For a long haul flight, the lounge is an excellent addition and Qatar Airways' lounge on the A380 is indeed pleasant, relaxing, and fun.  It also lends to passenger health because people can stand and walk around the plane, further reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

qatar airways a380 business class
It is said that the head of Qatar Airways is meticulous about details.  The A380 reflects this.
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
qatar airways a380 business class
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
qatar airways a380 business class
Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Meal service on this flight, as I observed, was right up to Qatar Airways standards of excellence and I am happy to see that although the meals are tasty, the quantity is reasonable – not too much.  But as noted, I passed on the in flight meal, having stuffed myself in the lounge!

The flight into Doha proceeded all too quickly – barely 6 ½ hours. I would have been most happy to fly right on to the Philippines aboard Qatar Airways’ A380.  Arrival was smooth and on time and Doha’s new airport is excellent, spacious and very efficient, indeed. If you can swing it, try to get yourself on an A380 flight.  It is one fine aircraft, indeed!

TRAVELERS’ NOTES FOR LONDON HEATHROW:  

  • For passengers travelling out of London, the security folks are strict with hand carried liquids – even medicines and cosmetics.  These have to be placed in a zip lock type clear plastic bag and shown at security in that plastic bag.  Failing to do so will only create delay because you will be given a bag by security and made to put all your small liquids in it prior to being cleared.  Avoid the hassle and be prepared!
  • Duty free shopping in the U.K. is easy and presents an opportunity to save a considerable sum.  Stores will do some of the work in completing the necessary forms for reimbursement.  However, there are parts of the form that the passenger has to complete.  A word to the wise, complete this paperwork prior to going to the airport.  The lines at the tax refund counters can be long and you will save yourself (and others!) time and grief if you have your papers complete and ready for inspection.  Nothing is more irritating that being behind someone who has multiple forms that are not completed and who holds up everyone else!
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