Philippine Airlines Flight Review: Incheon to Manila (Premium Economy Class)

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Incheon International Airport has been ranked as one of the best in the world several times over. Given that I was already impressed with the airports in Hong Kong and Singapore, I was curious to find out just how much better an airport could get and I had plenty of time to find out since my free airport shuttle service brought me to the airport six hours before my flight!

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I spent the first hour just roaming the pre-departure hall that was, like all airports, lined up with shops and restaurants.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The restaurants seem to be strategically categorized by location. Those surrounding the check-in counters were fast food chains with very small spaces and regular cafes.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
On the mezzanine were the more expensive restaurants. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), both categories were full.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
There was always somebody cleaning whether manually or riding an electric cart with mops.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This was something I have yet to see at other airports.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
There was also a live concert.

So far so good.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
If I have anything to gripe about Incheon airport, it's the push carts. As with regular carts, you need to push down the handle to get it rolling but Incheon's was too tight that you had to exert all effort to keep it down. And if you have small hands like mine, they will get sore quickly.

By the way, notice the ad in the cart? If you have a long layover at Incheon, you can tour Incheon or Seoul for free on a bus, complete with a tour guide! You just have to show your boarding pass, ticket, and passport. If you’re not in transit, you can’t join as I found out. I thought being a tourist would be enough to get a seat.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
In addition to the high-end restaurants on the mezzanine was a museum of Korean culture…

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 …as well as a K-Pop store.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As my check-in time was still two hours away, I decided to start writing my review while charging my iPad. I was about to plug in my charger when a Korean woman who sat after me plugged in hers. I looked at her which made her realize what she had done. We both laughed together as she showed me another outlet for me to plug in.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Finally, the check-in counters were opened. If you’re not alert, the lines can get long real quick.

Then came security screening which took a while but I was done with immigration in less than five minutes including the queuing! I did make a boo-boo as I forgot to check in my luggage which was of course intercepted on the way to the security area. The check-in officers laughed at their mistake as well. When I returned, the security officer recognized me and gave a smile which I appreciated as I remember being bawled at in Dallas when I made a similar mistake. That time was an honest mistake as the security check was the first thing I saw after entering the Dallas airport and thought it was a general security check for everyone entering. “It’s not even funny!” the security officer screamed at me. I tried to explain myself as well as tried not to lose my temper but she kept scolding me. I just shut her out mentally. Anyway, back to Incheon.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 On my way to my gate.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 Can’t get lost here---that’s for sure.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I decided to eat first as I wanted to make sure I was full and satisfied for a late evening flight. I did not want to take a chance on airline food in spite of having a decent meal last time. I had Japanese shrimp and pork rice at the food court near my gate but was only satisfied a few notches.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
My disappointment increased when I saw the Charlie Brown Cafe a few meters from the food court. Augh!

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Boarding commenced on time but the ground crew was making all the announcements in Korean so I just followed the lead of the Korean passengers. Although I was the fourth to come forward, I was put in the second batch for reasons I can't tell. At first I thought it was probably because they separated us by seat numbers but I was 22 while the Korean in front of me was 55.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I flew budget economy coming to Incheon but flying back to Manila, I was in premium economy. And true enough, the seats were wider, the leg room was bigger, I could recline my seat further and our blankets were waiting for us. If ever I fly PAL again, I will opt for premium economy.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
And like my flight before, there was the InAir wireless entertainment. I then realized the biggest advantage to doing away with IFE: I am no longer subjected to PAL’s safety demonstration and their "Welcome to Manila" videos. The first one was amusing in the beginning but has since become irritating after the nth viewing while their welcome video seemed like a school project---a mediocre school project.

We departed on time with a smooth take-off. As soon as the seat belt signs were turned off, my middle seat mate turned off my reading light even though we were never introduced to each other. 

Immigration and customs forms were distributed and dinner was served but I just opted for water. Seeing the food choices of beef and chicken with salad and dessert made me at least glad for my decision to eat at the airport.

I turned on InAir expecting to see the same titles from my previous flight and was glad to see new ones. I clicked on "Scooby Doo" but it was an episode I had already seen. I tried "Gotham" but propping my iPad up with my hand was tiring so I opted out and tried to get some shut-eye. I woke up an hour later with a bit of a sore neck when the pilot announced the start of our descent. Water was then offered to the passengers.

We landed as scheduled, almost to the second. The door in the middle was opened and they let the business class passengers exit first. Naturally, they had their own special immigration counter but what puzzled me was why there were only two counters for Philippine passport holders while there must have been four for foreigners. What irked some of the Pinoys who kept to the two designated lines was when some latecomers with Philippine passports were accommodated at the counters for APEC, senior citizens and persons with disability. I don’t know if they were APEC delegates but I could see they did not belong to the last two categories. The officers in those counters should have served us who were there first. It was a good thing that my line was fast.

Anyway, it was almost midnight and I could see as I approached the baggage claim that our luggage was already out. I expected to see mine among the first as the airport officer in Incheon was kind enough to put a priority tag on mine without me asking for it. Thirty pieces of luggage and golf clubs later, mine had not come out. I asked the guard who later asked one of the airport staff if baggage with priority tags were already segregated and were just waiting for their owner at a designated place, as some international airports do.

No. They are all lumped together.

I guess I should have checked if my tag had a qualifier, “low” priority as it was one of the last that came out.


Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

---THE PARANOID TRAVELER---

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