Philippine Airlines has been doing major overhauls with their strategies and more importantly, with their product. Days before a weekend trip going to Bangkok, we scored a reasonably-priced ticket from their Budget Economy offering. Here’s the review. Read more…
|Airline/Operator||Philippine Airlines (PR)|
|Route||Manila, Philippines (MNL) to Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK)|
|Flight Details||PR730 / Departure: 9:35 AM / Arrival: 12:05 PM / 1361 miles|
|Aircraft/Seats||Airbus 330-300 / 42 Mabuhay (Business) / 260 Fiesta (Economy)|
|Price of Ticket||125.80 USD (~5640 PHP) Budget Economy one-way|
We were ready to postpone the trip because of rather high economy fares for the weekend, but lo and behold, five days before the departure date, they opened up some Budget Economy seats both ways, beating even their low-cost competitor. And of course, flying full-service is more advantageous with free 20kg baggage and a hot meal with beverages.
It was my first time to purchase a ticket from their new fare families, which have revamped benefits. Recently introduced were Budget Economy, Regular Economy, Business Class Promo, and Premium Business Class replacing the Fiesta and Mabuhay fare scheme, as well as a new Premium Economy section for select domestic and international flights. Fare classes differ in terms of baggage, mileage accrual, standby, changes, and cancellations.
I also have to note the overhauled Philippine Airlines website. Honestly, I am not a fan of the homepage design, but I’m very pleased that they’re now using Sabre as their booking engine. This aligns them with a lot of the world’s airlines and makes web check-in possible.
I avoided using their web check-in facility because I intended to get an exit row seat at the counter. However, I was told at the airport that economy seats that afford extra legroom, otherwise known as Choice Seats, are chargeable with a fee. But overall, my check-in at the airport in Manila was smooth—I was handled by a friendly lady, and I was accommodated even though my flight wasn’t set to leave in a little more than three hours.
In my opinion, NAIA Terminal 2 (IATA: MNL) remains to be the best airport terminus in the country, so it’s one of the reasons why I always look forward to flying with Philippine Airlines. But it’s quite crowded in the morning, with several narrow and wide body flights departing that timeframe, so I’m thankful to have waited at the Mabuhay Lounge.
“Sporting an elegant and contemporary wooden theme coupled with appropriate ambient lighting, the new Mabuhay Lounge feels warm and inviting—thanks to Warren Foster-Brown of renowned Singapore-based interior design firm FBEYE International. The world-class facility, impressively expanded to 520 square meters, is now at par with other premiere airline lounges in terms of layout, features, and amenities, and it promises that the Mabuhay Class experience up in the sky can be expected on the ground.” [Our full review on this link.]
As it was a morning flight, I chose to enjoy a bowl of their signature arroz caldo with some delicious stuffed bread on the side. Also on offer were longganisa, eggs, and garlic rice, as well as some select dim sum. Hot and cold drinks, including alcoholic ones, were available.
Over the couple of hours I spent waiting for my flight, I was able to check my mail on one of their Mac stations, read some magazines and newspapers, nap at one of their comfortable ottoman chairs, and even take a quick shower. It was surely a great experience.
The flight was on a wide-body Airbus 330-300 jet, so boarding absolutely had to be done by groups. First to board were business class travelers and those with Elite status on the Mabuhay Miles program. The rest were orderly called according to zones in the plane. Thankfully, boarding started early, so we consequently were able to depart as scheduled.
INFLIGHT EXPERIENCE AND SERVICE
The economy seating configuration of the particular Airbus 330-300 I took was eight abreast in a 2-4-2 arrangement, with the last five rows spaced seven abreast in a 2-3-2 arrangement. There were a total of 260 economy seats with generous 32” seat pitch—this allowed my 5’11” frame to be comfortable with the seat and gave my legs much-needed space even on a regular economy seat.
The cabin temperature was comfortably cold, not frigid, though I did ask for a blanket because I was wearing a thin shirt suitable for Bangkok humidity.
I remember reading an article online ranting about how stern Philippine Airlines senior cabin crew could be. Yet on my flight, all crew, junior or senior alike, were always smiling, friendly, and accommodating, so I had no complaints. Their service actually made me proud for our flag carrier—that it can actually be remembered, among other things, for its hospitable crew.
Turbulence throughout the flight was minimal, and I perceived our takeoff and landing as smooth. We arrived in Bangkok on-time, and we were at the gate shortly after touchdown.
Meal service came past 10:00 AM, so lunch selections were served. Choices for my flight were sweet and sour dory fish, and chicken inasal (chicken rubbed with annatto oil)—I chose the latter. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty and tender the chicken was, and how the rice and vegetables on the side were grilled just right.
Accompanying the entrée were a nicely-crisp fresh salad, a bun, and Magnolia chocolate ice cream. Overall, the inflight meal was excellent and way better than some others I’ve had.
In economy class, there are no personal televisions (PTV) in contrast to the aircraft’s business class, although there are small monitors every three or so rows that feature new Hollywood movies like The Book Thief and Saving Mr. Banks. Those who are not into what’s being shown can listen to the multilingual music embedded to each seat or browse through Mabuhay Magazine, which remains to be a quality inflight read.
There were no hitches with baggage reclaim, as the ground handler of Philippine Airlines in Bangkok was efficient enough to get our bags at the belt by the time we passed immigration. Well, it did take us time to walk to and queue up for immigration because Suvarnabhumi Airport is one of the world’s largest and busiest.
Honestly, my flight from Manila to Bangkok was very favorable that I figured Skytrax should reevaluate Philippine Airlines and perhaps upgrade its three-star rating. I’ve tried some other legacy carriers, and our own can compare to the better ones in terms of experience. And as we have observed, it is definitely competitive in terms of fare pricing especially for the Manila-Bangkok route and back—quite often beating other airlines.
Great service on my flight deserves special mention, and the Filipino hospitality exemplified by the crew definitely is one of the airline’s primary selling points. The lack of personal inflight entertainment (IFE) may be an issue for some, but when the airline’s new and exciting In-Air wireless entertainment gets to more flights, the experience will be more commendable.