Long before Philippine Airlines got the new B777s, the B747 was the mothership, the pride of their fleet. While it's been serving them well for many years, it took long for PAL to do a complete make-over of the ageing Boeing 747's cabins. I haven't had the chance to see this change since the last time I've flown with them internationally was six years ago. Luckily, I got a free ticket from my mom's mileage account to fly on Mabuhay Class from Davao to Manila (where I was connecting to my international flight on another airline). A quick check with PAL confirmed that my flight would indeed be operated with the refurbished B747.
Check-in - Even before one enters the terminal at Davao International Airport, men in uniform do a visual check of all bags. Then it goes through x-ray machines. There was no one else queueing in the business class counter so check-in was quick. My two bags were tagged and soon disappeared as it traveled on the conveyor belt. The agent handed me my boarding pass and a lounge invitation. After paying the terminal fee and buying some pasalubong in one of the shops, I headed straight to Mabuhay Lounge.
The lounge - which is very similar in design to the NAIA lounge in Manila - is airside so there was a good view of arriving/departing airplanes. As my flight doesn't leave until a good hour away, I helped myself to a bowl of chicken Arroz Caldo - the lounge's staple food for as far as I can remember. There's a choice of hot & cold beverages as well as a selection of local newspapers. WiFi signal was great so I was able to check on email.
Boarding - Flight was scheduled to depart at 11:50AM so I was glad to hear boarding being announced about 30 minutes prior. PAL has quite a reputation for being delayed - as in Plane Always Late, remember? I got out of the lounge and into the departure gate where a long line has built up. There's no separate line for premium class but I really wasn't in a hurry so I waited at the side. One of the gate agents saw my boarding pass and told me I could go through - Oh, thanks.
The Seat - Checking out PAL's Recaro seats is the main reason why I'm so excited about flying the B747. At the door was the purser and a flight attendant who immediately directed me to the left (I always go to the right on all my flights hahaha!). Now that PAL has downgraded itself to a two-class cabin, what used to be First Class section is now Mabuhay Class with 32 seats on a 2-2-2 configuration. Up on the second deck, there are 24 business class seats.
I was escorted by a pretty female flight attendant to my window seat on 2K which is almost at the nose of the plane. A beverage was offered right away as well as hot towel. A male steward meanwhile offered newspapers. The female flight attendant came back asking what I'd like to eat and drink later. There was another passenger seated next to me so I asked to move to the back in 6A since the cabin was about 40% full only. Almost everyone ended up having a row all to themselves eventually.
There's a 15-inch seatback personal TV, laptop power port and a USB port to really make me busy on long-haul flights but since this was just a short hop, I decided on taking pictures only (if that's not yet obvious). Economy Class seats have their own 9-inch personal TVs as well.
Seat pitch on PAL's Mabuhay Class is 57 inches while the width is a mere 21 inches - which still feels tight compared to the competition. It does recline to a full 180 degrees flat but at an angled position and not completely horizontal. Many passengers do not really like sleeping this way as most often they end up sliding down especially during bumpy flights. As it is, I'd rather sleep here on a long trans-Pacific flight than being choked on the cattle class way at the back.
The Flight - It's an hour and 45 minutes flying from Davao to Manila. The pilot's voice crackled on the PA with the usual announcements that was followed by inflight safety demos via video. We were pushed back from the gate on time and was soon airborne - there's hardly any aircraft traffic even for a major city like Davao after all.
As soon as the plane reached its cruising altitude, flight attendants swiftly made themselves busy in the galley. In no time, our individual orders were served on a tray. Rather disappointingly, the choices for lunch wasn't Filipino but Korean and Italian - so I went with this Korean noodle dish that thankfully was good. How on earth PAL's kitchen promotes a foreign dish on a domestic flight really bewilders me. The flight attendants were at least very good when it comes to service department - a very natural thing for Pinoys, right?
The Arrival - We landed on time on a sunny early afternoon in NAIA. To our surprise, the plane didn't park at the Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2) where it normally does but went on taxiing, passing by NAIA Terminal 1 until it stopped right next to the Cargo Terminal. There was no word from the pilots as to why. A mobile staircase was sent but the plane's door remained closed. Word came that we were only waiting for the buses to arrive. We waited. And waited. For 45 minutes! Good that I had plenty of time before my next flight but it was really aggravating, especially to those with flights leaving soon. The buses came and unlike premium classes in other airlines, it was a free-for-all getting on the bus. A really bad arrival for what was otherwise a very pleasant flight.