I can vividly recall the first time I flew. I was 10, and my mom flew us from Tagbilaran to Manila for a reunion. I remember asking why there was a curtain that separated people in front from the rest of us; then I would later learn what business class meant. Flying in it has always remained an aspiration given our financial standing, yet after years in coach, the dream came to fruition. I finally rode business class with Philippine Airlines. Read more…
|Photo credit: Airbus|
Like most, I’ve been practical about my flying choices—in other words, the most affordable airline gets my business. And I’ve always cared more about price than frills, that baggage and meals were merely a bonus. While I usually skimp on airfare, my mind had been fixed that I’d one day fly business or first class—although I didn’t foresee it happening soon.
I was told of the news of an upgrade days before my flight, and I was honestly ambivalent. I was mostly delighted, yet I couldn’t help but feel undeserving because my parents haven’t even flown business class. Days passed though, and my profound happiness took over, feeling part-eager, part-anxious. But there was a hurdle that needed to be overcome.
Long story short, the earlier flight from Dumaguete to Manila was full, and there was no way for me to standby. The only recourse was to rebook to Bacolod, and while that sounds simple, let’s just say it cost me a taxing eight hours on the road to get on a flight to Manila.
Despite being at wit’s end, frustrated at the despicably slow bus, I made it to my flight, and I arrived at NAIA Terminal 2 about five hours before I was scheduled to jet off to Bangkok. Although I would normally be bothered by such a long layover, it was all good at that instance, as it meant more time spent at the Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge.
After being checked-in at a special counter and priority processed at immigration, I headed for the airline’s world-class business class lounge. I’ve been there before, and the experience has been constantly positive, thanks to a recent remodeling of the place.
All afternoon, I was able to work in my makeshift office, whilst bingeing on a smorgasbord of tasty food: arroz caldo (chicken porridge), mini sandwiches, a wide selection of desserts, dim sum, as well as a full lunch of fish and chicken dishes with rice. I had free rein on the fridge of cold beverages, so it needs not be mentioned that I had can after can of Coke Light.
Just as I was gaining momentum in writing, it was almost time to board, and so I scurried to the shower to refresh before my flight. I journeyed more than six hours in an open-air bus, thus a rubdown was much-needed and well-deserved. Besides, I didn’t want to be the only business class passenger looking and smelling vile—I had to keep up at least with hygiene.
As I boarded like a boss, I was offered a cold welcome drink in cute glasses, the first thing only business class passengers receive. I had to gulp quickly though, since I still needed to get settled and take photos of our jet for that flight, the spanking new Airbus 321.
The comfortable seats are fitted with handsome brown leather, and they’re wider at 34 inches, too—for comparison, business class is configured in 2-2 seats per row, while economy is at 3-3 per row. The seat pitch, which in aviation parlance refers to the distance between a seat and the seat in front, is an impressive 37 inches; thus, my legs were happy.
I scoped the entire cabin out to check the people with me. The four others clearly fit the serious-looking businessman profile, so I somewhat felt inadequate in age and attire. I was a plain-looking 23-year-old in a T-shirt and a hoodie, traveling alone without family. Even I myself wondered what I was doing in business class.
Soon after we reached cruising altitude, a cabin attendant emerged from the galley, white mantelpieces in hand. He gingerly picked one and set it carefully onto my tray table. For this ritual is unheard of back in coach, I tried to compose myself despite being so giddy.
Regular economy class meals usually are a simple dichotomous choice: beef or chicken with rice or pasta. Crew from other airlines wouldn’t even tell you how the protein is cooked by simply asking beef or chicken, and if one dares ask, they might shove the tray to the said person after letting out a demeaning chuckle. In business class, however, the attendant comes out politely before the flight with a menu booklet, pen, and paper to take orders.
Philippine Airlines’ Master Chef Series, exclusively for business class, showcases some creations from their experienced bunch of chefs de cuisine. There wasn’t kung pao chicken nor beef stew, but there were deep-fried beef tenderloin in garlic pepper sauce by Suwanna Puangdee of Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant, grilled chicken in lemongrass with kalo-kalo fried rice by Fernando Aracama of Aracama Filipino Cuisine, and grilled cod in herbed butter by Clifton Lyles formerly of Alaska Airlines. In the mood for Asian fusion, I chose the first one.