Philippine Airlines Flight Review: Manila to Tokyo Narita (Round-Trip)

All the talk about "traffic-geddon" in Manila due to all the construction and re-blocking made me highly paranoid that I trouped to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 five hours before my flight. I ended up arriving just an hour later which is my regular travel time pre-construction. So now I had four hours to kill. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather be bored inside the Centennial Airport than sweat it out on the road, snarled in traffic.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Check-in was fast and efficient with one foreign passenger ignoring the "wait behind the yellow line" directive and stood so close to me as if we were traveling together. Not satisfied with that, she walked past me and presented her ticket even though I was not yet done. The Philippine Airline representative acknowledged her presence and firmly but gently told her to wait. She should have added the phrase, "behind the yellow line" as once again, the passenger was a morning breath away.

At immigration, I noticed that there was now a designated line for business class passengers along with senior citizens. Immigration clearance was a breeze even with just the regular lane. After security check, there was a mild excitement as former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada arrived. A handful of cameramen took his pictures as he made his way to his boarding gate, stopping for a short while to shake the hand of a man in a wheelchair.

I spent most of the waiting time at the laptop station with two defective chairs. When I asked where the other chairs were, I was told that they were all broken. I couldn't help to notice that they did not say they were under repair.

Narita, here I come!

Although we boarded on time, our plane departed five minutes late and the take-off was smooth but we immediately encountered some slight turbulence after the seat belt sign was turned off. There were three newspaper brands offered while food was served an hour into the flight. We had a choice between beef curry and chicken inasal. I opted for the latter.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I am cynical when it comes to airline food and this experience has done nothing to change my attitude. The salad of tofu, meatball and veggies tasted like they were bought frozen from the supermarket. The chicken was better than expected (as I've had it before on other occasions) but still not impressive. Only the sauce gave it flavor. The bun was the best thing as it was sweet and soft. As for my drink, I ordered Coke. Normally, I drink warm water but with my low expectations, I always have soda to drown away the anticipated terrible after-taste. But PAL saved the best for last with ube ice cream and green tea.

For a four-hour flight, I was surprised how there was no in-flight entertainment which probably explains their newest offer of the use of iPads free of charge for anyone regardless of class.

Free of charge?

"Free of charge," the purser repeated as if she read my thought bubble.

Our plane, the Airbus A321-200, seemed and felt new. As a regular economy passenger, I was squeezed in a row behind the choice seats. This is one of those times that I am thankful for my petite size but I was still envious of the woman seated by the window. She had no seat in front of her hence she had more leg room even though we were both in the same class. I asked if she paid extra but she just smiled sweetly and said no. I had the impression she did not fully grasp her good fortune because she complained of not having a table tray in front of her.

Konichiwa, Tokyo!

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Upon arrival at Narita International Airport, our first encounter was with an official who checked if we had completed our immigration form. Then we were led to another official who directed us to which counter we should queue at. He also made sure that everybody stayed behind the "stop" sign (our equivalent of the yellow line) by calling their attention. Immigration took our digital fingerprints and photo and off we went to the baggage claim where two officials held signs indicating which carousel one's airline was releasing our belongings. Another official walked the ramp with a similar sign.

At the airport, we had the choice of taking a taxi, train or bus (they call it airport limousine) to the city. I took the Narita Express not bothering to check if it was the most viable but simply because I love riding the subway abroad.

All in all, it took me less than an hour to get in and out of Narita International Airport with no time to be impatient.

Sayonara, Tokyo!

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Fast forward and it wasn't long before I had to say sayonara to Tokyo. Once again, I took the Narita Express for a convenient one-hour commute to the airport. Buying my ticket and finding the platform was somewhat stressful. I wasn't sure where to buy my ticket as there wasn't any English translations so I just lined up at what looked like a ticket counter. I asked the lady in front of me if I was at the right line and she just giggled and said, "Maybe." Not very encouraging as there was a handful ahead of us. If I was mistaken, I would have wasted thirty minutes. Good thing that it was indeed the ticket counter. I was issued a ride ready to depart in 10 minutes at a platform that took nine and half minutes to find! Needless to say, I zonked out during the train ride and I almost missed my stop.

Upon arrival at the airport, I had to wait for half an hour for the check-in counter to open but it was a swift process from there to immigration. There was hardly any line and there was always someone telling us which lane to go to. In just 20 minutes, I was inside waiting for my departure. 

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The Narita International Airport is several times bigger than NAIA. It has the usual shops and restaurants to help pass the time. It also has a designated wi-fi room where I spent time writing this review. Narita is better than our airport in terms of size, efficiency and facilities except that the temperature felt kind of warm that I had to roll up my sleeves and leggings. 

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Our flight on the Airbus 320-200 departed almost to the nanosecond and take-off was smooth. Philippine newspapers, headsets and immigration forms were distributed immediately after the seat belt sign was turned off. Unlike before, we now had in-flight entertainment but I did not bother with it as I continued doing this review although I must say that the film offer was one of the best movies I saw last year---"The Book Thief." If you haven't seen it, go and see it. And if you have children, let them see it as well. But I digress. This is not a film review.

Meals were served with a choice of chicken and beef noodles. I ordered chicken because the beef came with noodles. However, I didn't eat any of it as the ten-minute continuous turbulence made me lose my appetite. Getting spilled with water on the head and lap didn't help bring it back either. The stewardess was handing a cup of water over my head to my seat mate who became apologetic while the stewardess just continued on with her duties.

pal in flight meal
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
For the rest of the flight, I dozed on and off and finally woke up feeling like we had been flying for a long time. When the captain announced the start of our descent, I was surprised to realize that we were flying an hour longer. Manila takes only four hours to reach from Tokyo and yet we were landing five hours after departing. No explanation was given and I was too tired to ask.

Immigration took only a few minutes and as usual, the diva that was the baggage claim demanded more attention. This is something I don't understand. In other countries, our baggage is there waiting for us while it's always the other way around in Manila. Our airport authorities should take a look at how these countries do it. Is it because other airports are so big that the time it takes us to reach the carousel is also the same amount of time for unloading?

Overall, my flight experience to and fro was okay except for the turbulence which I hate with all my heart. As for my airport experience in both countries, I wasn't much impressed with Narita if only because I expected it to be big and efficient. I was just surprised that it looked kind of old. But no complaints. I save those for NAIA and its exasperating baggage unloading system.

Know Before You Go:
-The Paranoid Traveler


  1. Compared to NAIA, Narita is still waaaaay better. I lament at how ugly-looking our airport looks like everytime I arrive home. Absolutely got nothing on Suvarnabhumi, Changi, and Incheon. Even Bali and Ho Chi Minh got better airports.

  2. Flying east is always faster than west. Mnl to nrt is east and nrt to mnl is west. Hope this satisfies your query?

  3. You forgot about the time difference. Shouldn't you be aware of that by now?

  4. Being a pilot is not just a profession; it's a lifelong love affair with the skies. AV8 Prep learning how to fly


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