Philippine Airlines/PAL Express Flight Review: Caticlan to Manila (A320)

Author's note: This is the second of two posts related to this trip.  You can read the first post here.

The new year brought along with it a new storm to hit parts of the Central Philippines.  Outside my window, I could hear the wind howling and the rain pouring fairly heavily.  I thought at first the flight would be delayed substantially.  But when I checked with the resort staff and Flightradar24, it turned out that the flight to take us back to Manila would be more or less on schedule.  Unlike previous years where our flight would leave later in the afternoon or early evening, our flight this time would depart shortly after midday.  That meant I needed to hit the gym and have breakfast at a much earlier hour than what I was used to and I could no longer walk around the shore and enjoy the white sands on my final day.  

Boracay on new year's eve
Image by hybridace101

The night before, I started making preparations by checking in my group online.  I didn't have the booking code but had my Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer number on hand.  I printed out everyone's boarding cards.

TIP: If you previously gave your Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer number when booking your flight (or requested it to be added later), you can use that to check in everyone in your booking at the same time as you.

It was just after 11.00 when we departed the resort.  The journey to the jetty port would take us nearly a half hour.  The staff at our boat served us with a biscuit and mineral water during the water journey back to the main island.  As I wore shoes, someone had to carry me out so as not for me to wet them. But the umbrellas we were given were too powerless to withstand the strong winds.  I ended up getting soaked on the way to the waiting area.  

A final shuttle would take us to the airport which was about one minute away.  

We had one hour left before departure when we arrived at the airport.  Security staff were stricter here than in Manila because at the entrance, passengers needed to take out electronic devices such as laptops and tablets.  At the check-in desks, the queues appeared long for both PAL and the but since someone in our travelling party had Mabuhay Miles elite status, we could use the shorter lanes.  The bag drop process went fairly smoothly.  

Although we printed our boarding cards the night before, check-in staff gave us another one anyway.  Nonetheless I decided to use the one I printed out at security and boarding.  It worked.  Unlike Manila, Boracay airport had a facility where passengers needed to have their boarding cards scanned before proceeding through a security check.  

We waited for another 15-20 minutes at the holding area.  We saw our friends who were booked on an earlier Cebu Pacific flight that was eventually cancelled.  They departed later in the day.  Our flight on the other hand, seemed to be running as planned.  

Meanwhile, the holding area just had a large Treats stall (Treats is the convenience store found at major Petron petrol stations), a Starbucks area, and a small stall where local souvenirs like shirts could be purchased.  The decor around the holding area gave away the notion that San Miguel Corporation now manages the airport.  It is still smaller and more basic compared to Berlin's Schönefeld and London's Luton Airport.   One strange thing happened at my boarding gate: it still flashed a Cebu Pacific flight on its monitor. 

One of the stalls at Boracay Airport
Image by hybridace101

Boracay Airport holding area for Gates 3 and 4
Image by hybridace101

Petron's Treats store at Boracay Airport
Image by hybridace101

San Miguel Corp decorations at Boracay Airport pre-departure area
Image by hybridace101

San Miguel Corp decorations at Boracay Airport pre-departure area
Image by hybridace101

San Miguel Corp decorations at Boracay Airport pre-departure area
Image by hybridace101

Our boarding gate which still flashed Cebu Pacific flight details
Image by hybridace101

I was allocated to zone E which meant that in theory, I needed to wait a bit more for boarding to resume.  As I said previously, I prefer to board last because I don't want to be stuck in aisles clogged by passengers putting their stuff at the overhead lockers.  However, my folks called all of us to join them at the premium lane and the ground staff didn't have a problem.

Just like when we arrived, busses would take us to the plane.  But I didn't get the point of the boarding zones if almost all the busses would leave on a convoy.  Some of the busses could have gone ahead.  This time, the busses did not leave the airport's premises and instead used the runway.  It took less than 10 minutes to reach the aircraft.  However, the bus' doors did not open immediately for passengers to board.  We waited an additional 10 minutes.  Once the doors opened, we boarded through the aircraft's rear.  


Flight number: 2P/PR2042
Gate: 3
Scheduled Departure Time: 13:20
Actual Take-off Time: 13:37
Aircraft Registration: RP-C8393

PAL Express A320
Image by hybridace101

Once I entered the aircraft, I asked the cabin crew which terminal the flight would arrive at.  She happily checked with others who knew and it was Terminal 2.    

TIP: PAL Express flights usually do not have a fixed arrival terminal.  It will usually be confirmed at the departure airport.  Try to find this out before departure so that you can sort out fetching arrangements upon arrival at Manila.

Other than I experienced a fairly foggy passenger cabin thanks to how the air-conditioning works.  Needless to say it cleared shortly before take-off.  

PAL Express A320 interiors
Image by hybridace101

PAL Express A320 interiors
Image by hybridace101

PAL Express A320 seat
Image by hybridace101

PAL Express A320 interiors
Image by hybridace101

Additionally, I once again resumed an audiobook I listened to last time.  I dozed off shortly before the plane got off the ground.  Ultimately the flight took off 20 minutes after scheduled departure time.   When I woke back up again, I found a pack of Tablea shortbread biscuits land on my tray table.  They tasted good.  I was also served a small glass of water.  

Tablea shortbread biscuits as snacks given out on our flight
Image by hybridace101

The rest of the flight was uneventful.  But I spent some time glancing at articles and guides from PAL's Mabuhay Magazine.  It was in here I found out that their upcoming A321 Neos would have personal seat-back IFEs in all classes and high-speed WiFi.  In addition, I also found items that heavily promoted Narita airport as one of the airports that PAL serves.  But I found that slightly awkward as most carriers were fleeing from there to serve the nearby Haneda airport (which PAL also serves).  Finally I read a guide on how passengers could transfer given that PAL has a footprint in some form at all NAIA terminals (except Terminal 4).    

We felt the flight descend before we knew it.  

We arrived just after 14:30.  It was a short taxi to the gate.  This time, we would use a gate with jet bridges.  I felt slightly confused because upon disembarkation, there was a sign that pointed to domestic arrivals in the opposite direction of where everyone was supposed to head.  

It took another 15 minutes for all our bags to be retrieved.  Once we were done we headed out the terminal and called for an Uber to fetch us.  Despite booking an Uber XL, it could only fit four out six since there were a lot of bags to occupy the space where other passengers would normally occupy.

With that, our trip to an island paradise concluded.  

These are rated from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score.  This covers aspects of the flight experience that PAL Express/Philippine Airlines and its ground agents are responsible for.

·    Check-in (10/10):   We immediately were on our way after finding a Mabuhay Miles Elite desk.  They sorted all of us out soon enough.  
·      Boarding Process (7/10): Although I was glad to be allowed to be on the first group to embark on the busses, I still didn't get the logic of why the busses had depart at the same time.  The point of being part of the first group was to be on the aircraft first which sadly was not the case here. 
·      Seat Comfort (8/10): It was a fairly standard seat.  Enough legroom though may get a bit tight if passengers were looking to move around.     
·      Food (9/10): In an industry where buy-on-board is fast becoming a norm even among more mainline carriers, one cannot complain about a free snack even if it was just a quick bite.  I was glad to get shortbread biscuits.   
·      Cabin Crew (10/10): They were pretty responsive to our needs, which weren't much. 
·      Punctuality (7/10):  We left slightly behind schedule.  Still, considering the storm that hit nearby provinces, nothing too severe hit the flight to keep it from going off schedule by a lot.  
·      In-flight entertainment (na)For a short leg, we can forgive the airline for not having IFE on this occasion.  The flight would have been too short to enjoy IFE so it is unfair to judge PAL for its absence here.  However, please bring your own form of entertainment (i.e. stored in your phones or tablets) just in case.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.