My expectations of Philippines Airlines were quite low. My only experience of Philippine Airlines had been a single adequate domestic flight five years ago. Instead, I found that PAL holds their own and offers service that is, overall, currently better than both Thai Airways and Malaysia Airlines. As those two airlines’ standards appear to have slipped, PAL has overtaken them. Best of all, I managed to snag business class fares that cost less than a third of those being charged by Singapore Airlines. I got a very comfortable ride. All my flights were marred by one thing, however. Read on…
My flying over the last three months has taken me between Kuala Lumpur and Manila, three times, between Melbourne and Manila three times and between Sydney and Manila once. The Long haul flights between Australia and the Philippines were all operated with Airbus 330-300 wide-body, twin-engine jet airliners. I travelled on A330 registration: RP-C8780 and RP-C8781 both delivered in October 2013 and refurbished in 2017. The short sectors to and from KL were flown on Airbus 321s.
I was surprised at how user-friendly the Philippines Airlines website was. Booking my fares, seats and baggage options were easy. Payment went through smoothly and quickly.
Their app was a little more clunky. What blew me away was their online support. I used their chat function to cancel a flight and found it painless, fast and effective.
Philippines airlines sent me some very welcoming emails before each flight outlining their concierge services. I liked the touch. They also sent a nice follow-up email. More airlines could do this.
I was unable to work out the logic as to why some flights allowed me to check in on-line and others did not. Even from the same airport! The one consistency I had, however, was that I encountered some of the warmest, patient calmest and the most welcoming check in staff I have ever met. This friendliness was evident in Manila and at other cities.
I never check luggage in but I did for two of the sectors. Luggage allowance is a low 40 kg for Business class. I was impressed that my checked bags were first off the belt. I was pleasantly surprised not to have a wait. I had had very little trust in Manila’airport’s luggage handling system, so I didn’t expect my bags to arrive at all.
The Manila Philpines airlines Terminal 2 lounge sits as a nice sanctuary at Manila After several recent visits to the lounge, I have adjusted my expectations and got used to its quirks. The lounge itself can best be described as very “dated” and in need of a major refurbishment. There were plenty of seats, however, on every one of my vists and I always got a seat with a power outlet/socket to recharge my laptop and phone.
Food wise, the quality was excellent with a surprisingly good variety of fresh food choices. The mix was Filipino, Chinese and western with options like empanadas, leche flan and congee. The bakery selections were good and there is a great bar with free cocktails, a nice coffee machine and a fresh noodle station.
Wifi was surprisingly fast. Staff were incredibly friendly and hospitable.
In Sydney, I found myself able to access The House which was the nicest of all the PAL lounges I encountered. In Melbourne, they place people in the Marhaba Lounge which was more than adequate with comfort, range and quality of food. Kuala Lumpur saw me at the Plaza Premium Lounge which is not a favourite. Very crowded and noisy. Food is okay. Showers were great!
Boarding at Manila airport was always chaotic. If you get stressed when travelling, take a dep breath. Everything at Manila Airport will annoy you! Boarding drove me crazy. Business class was called first but there was actually no order. On one occasion, I arrived from the lounge at the gate. In front of me was a clump of 300 people between me and the gate. As they called for Business Class to board, a helpful staff member said, “just push through“. That was an adventure!
The crew welcome aboard on every flight was the friendliest I have ever encountered on an airline in the world. Consistently. I was impressed when the cabin manager on one of the flights (who I recognised) came down to say “hi” and that she had seen my name on the manifest and remembered me from our previous flight. In business class, each attendant welcomed me by name addressed me by name and introduced themselves by name. They came to say goodbye prior to landing. Boy, did I feel welcomed.
I am not normally a fan of the A330, but I was impressed with the PAL’s three-class layout. There are 18 seats in Business Class, 24 Premium Economy and 414 seats in Economy Class. The condition of the planes were surprisingly excellent for aircraft delivered almost ten years previously, reflecting their 2017 refurbishment.
Philippine Airlines’ A330 Business Class features fully lie-flat seats with direct aisle access, personal storage compartments, and an 18.5″ in-flight entertainment systems with a wide selection of movies, TV shows, and music. It was a surprisingly good range, I was disappointed though that most of the Filipino movies and TV stories in Tagalog didn’t have English subtitles. I would have liked to watch some of them. The headphones they gave out were not brilliant, They didn’t fit comfortably, and the sound was tinny. I recommend BYO (bring your own).
I chose the seats with the wide armrests facing the aisles for greater privacy.
The Furla amenity kit given out on the long-haul flights was very good.
I found the Philippine Airlines’ Airbus A321 business class cabin provided me with a comfortable and relaxing flying experience. The recliner seats were arranged in a 2-2 configuration, with a total of 12 seats in the business class cabin. The seats were wide at 21″ and come with 37″ giving ample legroom. I could easily stretch out and relax during the flights.
The seats also have adjustable headrests, lumbar support, and footrests to provide passengers with maximum comfort. Each seat came with a 15.6-inch myPAL eSuite Personal Entertainment System.
Restrooms aboard all flights were kept spotless. They had a large range of extras including handwash, mouthwash, and cologne.
Food On Board
Every flight came with a delicious main course. Starters varied in quality and taste, from delicious to so so. The meals often came with underwhelming fruit platters.
I discovered the best dessert I have ever had on a plane: PAL’s chocolate mousse pudding. On top of that, the crew encouraged me to combine the desert with another dessert choice, for example caramel#ice cream #cooked#banana & #cashew nuts smothered in a honey butter sauce. I consistently drank all the soda water on board (two cans each time!!). The FAs kept plying me with an acceptable French champagne.
PAL has its own program, Mabuhay Miles. The program allows you to earn miles on Philppines, ANA and Philippines code share flights. It has no relationships with any other airline which limits usefulness. If you want to earn points in their flights, they will go toward Mabuhay Miles, which can be redeemed only on Philippines airlines flights. Points took 10 to 21 days to appear on the system.
Philippine Airlines has earned a 5-star rating for safety from Skytrax, the independent airline rating agency and 6/7 from airlineratungs.com
The A330 aircraft has a good safety record and is rated as a safe and reliable aircraft. It has received a rating of 7.5 out of 10 on AirlineRatings.com, which assesses airline safety and product rating based on various factors, including crash records, operational history, and fleet age.
#Cabin#carbon#dioxide levels ranged from 443 to 1126ppm but sat in the 400s for the whole flight. Very safe environment flying overall. PAL were Strict on masks requiring them to be worn and reminding people multiple times. This gets them my instant loyalty. Crazy we still allow unmasked air travel especially when every medical association in the world is still calling for it in 2023. The chance of getting covid aboard is a round 1 in 2500
Manila Airport’s Awfulness
Manila Airport gets its own section in this review as this airport was the main downside of this trip. The airport is one of the worst I travel through. Delays into and out of Manila are very common. It is known for its terrible and long queues, cramped hallways, waiting areas and lounges and very small, poor signage. It lacks decent shops and amenities and in many of them they don’t take Credit Cards-in an international airport!!! The airport has four terminals (T1, T2, T3 and T4), connected by a very irregular and crowded shuttle bus system. Navigating teb airport ranges from bemusing to downrugt annoying. I have seen some spectacular meltdowns by inetrantiola travellers there! (the lcoals seem to accept that aiiprot for what it is).Guide to Sleeping in Airports, regularly nominates Manila as the world’s worst airport.
I drew on three strengths each time I landed or departed from there. The first, I am a seasoned, relatively unflappable traveller. The second is I know the airport well and pored over maps to understand my routes. I also was prepared every step of the way with my possessions, paperwork and processes.
I got off the plane as quickly as you can and was prepared to sprint to the immigration lines before they become nightmarishly long. I actually managed to belt off the plane, walk to the COVID check, then the half kilometre to immigration and through customs in under half an hour every time. On one occasion, It took me 19 (NINETEEN) minutes from when the plane LANDED to when I ordered my Grab (Uber equivalent in Asia). I am claiming this as a record for Manila airport. With a 13 minute grab ride, I was actually showered and in bed ready to sleep less than one hour after landing. That’s impressive at an airport I hate which is normally full of slow moving queues.
I do want to say that they have friendly people through the whole airport, however.
Overall Rating: 84%
Overall, the Philippine Airlines A330 Business Class was a comfortable flying experience with op-notch service. However, it’s worth noting that individual experiences may vary depending on factors such as specific aircraft configuration, route, and crew performance. .
My ratings are:
- Booking: 9/10 – app could be better
- Check-in: 9/10
- Boarding: 6/10
- Meals: 8.5/10
- Entertainment: 8/10
- Service: 10/10