The latest airline timetables have revealed that Philippine Airlines is planning to replace the existing aircraft currently operating routes from Manila to Honolulu and Manila to Bangkok. The Honolulu A340 service will be replaced with an A330 aircraft, while the existing A330 service to Bangkok will begin utilising a higher density A330 aircraft. But whether this is good news or not for travellers remains to be seen.
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Business travellers to Bangkok will be left with even less choice as Philippine Airlines replaces its existing A330 service featuring Business and Economy Class with a high-density version of the A330 aircraft in an all-economy class configuration. The change will come into effect on October 26, 2014 on flights PR730 and PR731.
When the change takes effect, passengers in economy will also feel a tighter squeeze. The existing A330 aircraft serving the Bangkok route is one of PAL's older models with 302 seats in a two class configuration featuring 42 seats in Business Class and 260 seats in Economy Class. Mainscreen service is offered in Economy Class for in-flight entertainment and the economy cabin is configured with eight seats across in a 2-4-2 configuration.
However, the new aircraft that is due to take over the Bangkok service is a high-density A330 aircraft configured with 414 seats in an all-economy layout. The aircraft features 39 seats in Premium Economy and 375 seats in Economy Class. One of the most noticeable changes for passengers in the new aircraft is the tighter configuration with 9 nine seats across in a 3-3-3 configuration, along with the absence of any in-flight entertainment. Philippine Airlines has been using this aircraft type on routes to the Middle East.
Passengers that wish to reserve a seat in the Business Class cabin will still have an opportunity to book a seat aboard PAL's second daily flight to Bangkok. Flights PR736 and PR737 is operated by a 156-seat A320-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration featuring both Business and Economy Class. Passengers in the economy cabin also get to enjoy main screen in-flight entertainment and the standard 3-3 configuration.
Meanwhile, passengers bound for Honolulu can also expect changes as Philippine Airlines is set to replace its existing A340-300 service with the new A330-300 HGW aircraft. PAL currently operates just three weekly flights to Hawaii but will gradually be increasing frequency over the next few months. On December 11, 2014, Philippine Airlines will introduce daily service on the route and begin operating it with the Airbus A330.
The A340-300 aircraft that operates the Honolulu route features mainscreen in-flight entertainment and a two-class cabin featuring anywhere from 254 to 294 seats depending on the particular aircraft used. The Economy Class aboard the A340 is configured with eight seats across in a 2-4-2 layout.
Although Philippine Airlines will be upgrading the service to the newest member of its fleet, passengers will face a tighter squeeze. The new A330 aircraft is configured with 368 seats with 18 in Business Class, 27 in Premium Economy, and 323 in Regular Economy. Those seated in either of the economy class cabins will now have to endure nine seats across as the A330 aircraft is configured in a 3-3-3 layout unlike the A340 with just eight seats across.
The A330-300 HGW aircraft features the new Philippine Airlines cabin design. Although there is no built in in-flight entertainment for passengers, the aircraft offers GSM and WiFi capability enabling passengers to make calls and browse the internet while in-flight. However, these services come at a fee. In addition, the new aircraft offers PAL's wireless in-flight entertainment that enables passengers to stream live content to their personal electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets. For those who do not have their own device on hand, iPad tablets are available for rent to passengers in Economy Class, while passengers in Business Class are provided with a tablet at no charge.
Passengers travelling in Business Class on the A330-300 HGW will also get to experience the new Philippine Airlines Business Class cabin that features Equinox 3D seats produced by Sogerma with a spacious 60-inch seat pitch. It can recline to various lounging positions including a fully flat position for those that wish to sleep.
Depending on the preferences of passengers, it remains unclear whether these aircraft changes will lead to a better or worse in-flight experience for passengers given the lack of in-flight entertainment and the tighter seating conditions. Is it an upgrade or a downgrade? That will ultimately be up to the individual traveller to decide.