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 9:20pm, 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 9:00pm announced that the Melbourne aircraft 'required additional servicing.' We waited, and waited. By 9:50pm I observed on PAL's website that the Melbourne flight had been delayed until 10:40pm. 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 10:20pm 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 10:46pm 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 eventually 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



15 comments:

  1. Imagine using the (OLD) A340 on a 14-hour flight to YVR and you'd be thankful they used the A330 for the Melbourne flight.

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  2. our Pal trip to Sydney on the A330 was one of the worst flights I ever had with PAL. no entertainment, very squashy seats which don't recline back as much as before narrow aisles which the cabin crew finds had to control the food cart, on both trips the crew dropped the trays on the floor next to me! and they didn't say sorry! told my wife going to look for another airline to fly to Sydney in future.

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    1. That's what one can expect from a 3-star airline like PAL. It's demise is imminent especially in this highly and globally competitive industry.

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    2. Kumpadre, bakit kasi hindi mo I-check muna iyong diperensiya ng pasahe sa PAL at:
      Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas..
      at kung isang daang Australia dolyar lang and itinaas nun, e di sumakay ka na lang sa iba.......busog ka pa sa pagkain, alak, tubig, meryenda at malalaki pang hamak ang eroplano nila para comportable ka ng husto! Kawawa naman kayo lalo na't kasama mo pa si misis......

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  3. PAL's demise imminent - RUBBISH!

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  4. PAL's demise imminent - RUBBISH!

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  5. I love PAL! Yay PAL! You're the bestest in whole world! Sweet!

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  6. They should have on demand tv in every airrcraft, I rather fly with China Airlines because they are cheaper and better, they have on demand screens on every aircraft

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  7. PAL IS ON OF THE MOST TIGHT ASS AIRLINER IN THE WORLD.. THEY NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

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  8. This site ought to hire an editor to fix the grammatical errors of the man who authored the review. His shortcomings as a writer would be understandable if he doesn't do this for a living. But it's the site's responsibility to polish up the articles it posts for clarity and easier reading and for credibility.

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  9. This site ought to hire an editor to fix the grammatical errors of the man who authored the review. His shortcomings as a writer would be understandable if he doesn't do this for a living. But it's the site's responsibility to polish up the articles it posts for clarity and easier reading and for credibility.

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  10. I am so glad you also discovered what has been an annoying issue for a while; some bloggers/writers even curse you when you tell them to tell their department of education (no capital letters) or their president for the "English carabao" that is plaguing the 100 million Pinoy country since the Americans left in 1946. Too bad their tagalog is not even considered an official international language. Prepare for more stinky and worst journalism from King Philip the 2nd's "paradise".............

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  11. PS. you shouldn't envy those who fly to US. I once flew PALs B777s when it was serving Japan three years ago, I could say those were the good days. Good IFE and comfy seats. the 3-4-3 economy config for a 5hour flight is good.

    this last flight to SFO was I guess a not so good experience (maybe because I flew with cathays B777 from YVR last year). food was tasteless unlike before. got no snacks bet meals..

    ife was like 4/10. they got new movies but the tv series got nothing.. unlike CX who even got GOT!

    I just wish PAL would be more innovative in the future.

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    1. And to think that monthly mortgage payments to Airbus Industrie-France is not only a hundred peso worth; it is astronomically high in usdollars or euros! How can PAL survive if it does not cut costs so that it can continue to operate.? Use your common sense here.... do not fly PAL if you keep complaining and whining!

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  12. I fly Manila Melbourne every 3 to 4 weeks and for the reasons mentioned in the article only fly with sq and cx. unfortunately the budget service does not justify the pal fares. And to be honest the cabin crew's attitude to safety issues (eg poor enforcement of seatbelt sign on) does not inspire confidence. i wish pal had not made the decision to be just another lcc...

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