Philippine Airlines Flight Review: Hong Kong to Manila (2010)

Throwback Thursday Trip Report: Philippine Airlines (March 2, 2010)


Copyright Image: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

FLIGHT DATA

  • Flight Number: PR311
  • Registration: F-OHZO / RP-C3332
  • Aircraft: Airbus A330
  • Gate: 16
  • Flying Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes (Actual: 1 hour and 35 minutes)
  • Scheduled Departure Time: 9:45pm
  • Scheduled Arrival Time: 11:50pm
This is the second part of a trip to Hong Kong that started on February 26, 2010.

On Monday, I checked my itinerary online for PR311 using virtuallythere.com. Oddly enough, the website revealed that a Boeing 777-300ER (77W) was to be used for my upcoming flight. I found it odd because usually the Boeing 777 is used for flights PR300/301 and PR306/307, while an Airbus wide-body aircraft is used for flights PR310/311. As it was a pleasant surprise, I was excited.

Kowloon Airport Express Station

We took the airport express train going to Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and checked-in at Kowloon station. We were scheduled to go home with my dad but he was booked with Cathay Pacific as he travelled ahead of us to Hong Kong on a separate flight for a business trip. 

While his check-in at Kowloon station was straightforward, it was not for my mom and I. She was originally booked on a "buy one take one" business class ticket where under normal circumstances, the revenue passenger and "free" passenger must check-in and fly together. However, special arrangements were made to lift this restriction for us but the check-in staff had to call and verify. Also, I tried requesting for a bulkhead seat but unlike previous trips, requesting one now cost HK$160. 

In the end, we were able to get our boarding passes. It was interesting to note that PAL's check-in counter at the Kowloon Station was shared with Emirates, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express. After completing the check-in, my parents and I got on the train to the airport and we later parted ways at the airport station.

Hong Kong International Airport

My dad exited towards terminal 1 (T1) for Cathay Pacific, while my mom and I went to terminal 2 (T2) for Philippine Airlines. She did some shopping while we were there. I wanted to see the exhibits on the upper floor but we realized that we were pressed for time. Instead, we proceeded straight to the departure hall through the basement of T2 and cleared passport control and security checks there. 

The good thing about T2 is that passport control isn't as congested as T1. I feel that Hong Kong's passport control clearance is notorious for being congested. I've seen passport control at Singapore Changi Airport and it doesn't even come close. Hence when my dad suggested that we use T1 because our check-in was already done, I told him that it was to our advantage to go to T2 because the queue wasn't that long there. We eventually made our way to T1 using the automated people mover. 

Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 2
Image by hybridace101
Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 2
Image by hybridace101
My mum made her way to the lounge to deposit her belongings, while I decided to take some time to have dinner at Popeye's and take more photos around the airport. Like most establishments at a typical airport, Popeye's appeared to be overpriced with a 2-piece chicken meal costing more than HK$50, but I wanted to have a full meal knowing that the meals in economy class aren't that filling.

After eating at Popeye's, I was left with between 10-15 minutes to take as many pictures as I could.

Image by hybridace101
Image by hybridace101
Image by hybridace101
Image by hybridace101
While exploring, I came across the Singapore Airlines lounge, though I did not enter it. Hopefully, I will muster enough money one day to fly my next trip between Manila and Singapore on Singapore Airlines as fares are relatively low at the moment.

SIA lounge at HKG
Image by hybridace101
I later realized that I was nearly 5 minutes late from the time I agreed to meet with my mum back near the departure gate. Although she was likely to contact me on my mobile phone, I had already switched it off in preparation for the flight. So I just proceeded to the gates and fortunately, my mum found me and we boarded together even though my row had not yet been called.

On-Board the Flight

To my surprise, PR311 was actually an A330. It seemed that the flight had reverted back to the originally scheduled aircraft, rather than the Boeing 777 that was indicated in my itinerary. I wondered how that could be given that my seat ended in C, something I thought would result in a 3-seat configuration. I found out later that the seats on the left side facing the front were booked as A-C instead of A-B. I would have taken pictures of the aircraft as seen from the gate but we were pressed for time. 

Having an A330 meant that no individual in-flight entertainment was available in economy, and consequently, no audio and video on-demand. This was the first time since 2006 that I rode in economy class on a Philippine Airlines A330. The last time I flew on one of these aircraft, I was booked in business class.

There were two deficiencies that I initially found on this aircraft: a) the grey plate just below the window seat was punctured, and b) the blue rectangular plate just between the seats came-off. It became evident that the aircraft registered, F-OHZO, as well as other aircraft in the PAL A330 fleet were coming of age, or at the very least, were not maintained as well as they should be. Another observation was that unlike other A330 aircraft, the airshow wasn't turned-on during the entire flight.

However, in spite of that, the good news was that unlike my outbound flight on PR300, PR311 wasn't full. In fact, nobody was seated next to me. In addition, the bulkhead rows weren't occupied. It was quite unusual for a HKG-MNL flight to be relatively light, at least in economy class. Maybe that's why the Boeing 777 was switched back to an A330.

We had to wait around 20-30 minutes from the start of boarding before I flight departed. They made an announcement as we were waiting that there were a few minutes left before departure and that a handful of passengers were still waiting to board. In addition, the cargo doors still needed to be closed. As we continued to wait, I got to see a Singapore Airlines and British Airways aircraft from my window.

Singapore Airlines Aircraft view from window
British Airways Aircraft view from window
When it came to the In-flight entertainment, it was also showing its age. The picture quality was not that clear as witnessed during the safety video, with the exception of the live map. The tapes used or the equipment that played them needed replacement.

Seven minutes passed since take-off and the seatbelt sign was switched-off. I briefly moved to the bulkhead seats, at no charge of course, and I had some brief conversations with the flight attendants about the Boeing 777 and other Philippine Airlines related stuff. I thought that they were kind enough to have such a chat to satisfy my curiosity.

Dinner was served shortly afterwards. Like the outbound flight, the meals were quite simple: chicken with rice and a brownie from Bizu. I finished my meal quickly.

pal meal
Dinner on PR311: Chicken with rice
Image by hybridace101
philippine airlines in-flight entertainment
Image by hybridace101
philippine airlines a330 economy
Image by hybridace101
Lighted passenger signs on an Airbus A330
Image by hybridace101
Except for the picture taking, there wasn’t that much to do during the flight. I headed back to my original seat after meal time. As there was some clear air turbulence, we couldn’t leave our seat for a few minutes, while the fasten seat belt sign was switched on. It was later turned-off again for about five minutes before it was switched on again to indicate our initial approach.

We landed in Manila relatively on time. When the plane was at a full stop, I headed to the business class cabin only to be stopped briefly by a flight attendant, but I was let through when they found out my mum was seated there. We eventually disembarked but not before I took one last photo of the business class cabin.

pal business class a330
Philippine Airlines Business Class seats on an A330
Image by hybridace101
Overall, PR311 was fairly uneventful. The Airbus A330/A340 family of aircraft, which had once been my favourite members of the Philippine Airlines fleet were certainly showing their age. If they want to sustain customers, Philippine Airlines should begin to refurbish these aircraft at least one at a time.

-HybridAce101

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