Philippine Airlines MNL-DVO

Asia's first airline had its ups and downs and for the time being, despite soaring oil prices, Philippine Airlines (PAL) has made announcements of expanding its fleet to accommodate more planned routes. I haven't flown on PAL from the U.S. because it hasn't served New York yet but if ever their new plane purchases (Boeing 777-300s) come equipped with good in-flight entertainment, I might consider it again. The last time I flew internationally on PAL was many years ago on a Jeddah-Manila flight aboard a Boeing 747-200. Today, I'm flying to Davao - and despite competition with cheaper but highly punctual Cebu Pacific - I decided to fly on PAL again.

Check-In: There's no queue at the Mabuhay Class counter so I got my boarding pass in no time at all. However, my 2 pieces of luggage tipped the overweight scale so I had to pay extra charges beyond the allowed 30 kilograms.


I noticed a little change in the interior since the last time I used PAL's domestic Mabuhay Lounge: there's now a buffet table of sandwiches, pastries and that good ol' Arroz Caldo in the middle of the lounge. Black and white photos of Philippine attractions adorn the walls. There are also 3 cubicles for PCs but only one actually has internet connection! One thing remains: the whole lounge is still claustrophobic due to its low ceiling with hardly any view of the world outside. I left the lounge even before the flight is called so I can walk around easily in the main waiting area upstairs. The Centennial Terminal (NAIA 2) is more decent than the aged NAIA 1 at least in terms of space and passenger comfort. (I'm not even going to ask when the NAIA 3 will finally open.) However, I wish they'd get rid of all that noisy public announcements: I find it irritating that even arriving planes are announced in departure gates!!! Can't people just look at screen monitors for tranquility's sake?



Boarding: Thankfully, PAL is on time today - I can see our plane outside. Boarding was called and I got inside an Airbus 340-300, one of the planes actually used by PAL for its trans-Pacific flights to North America. They only have four of these aircraft in their fleet so just imagine how busy this baby must have been flying with hardly any rest.


The Seat: The plane flies on three classes internationally but today, fortunate Mabuhay Class passengers get to sit on its actual first class seats, including yours truly. I settled myself at my assigned seat: 2K, one of the 12 seats in this cabin. Imagine the famous/infamous who could have sat by this window seat where I'm sitting: a Manny Pacquiao or a Gloria Arroyo? A male flight attendant offers me drinks right away while I absorb the spaciousness all around me. There's an in-seat video but its peanut size indicates how outmoded PAL's in-flight entertainment system is - and this is supposedly their premium seat! As soon as we were airborne for this one hour and a half flight time, meal service began. Considering that it's almost midday, the meal was nothing but a cold sandwich!!! Only 2 years ago, this same flight on the same class offered me a choice of two hot meals. What happened Mr. Lucio Tan? Just like other old-style first class seats in some airlines, this one I was on thankfully reclined a full 180 degrees.

Arrival: We landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule, truly remarkable for an airline whose acronym was mocked for being Plane Always Late several years ago. My 2 pieces of luggage also came expeditiously, thanks to their efficient baggage handlers at the Davao International Airport. Madayaw na pag-abot!

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