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Trip Report: Surprises and Delights Across the Pacific with Philippines Airlines
This trip report is the first in a series of stories that took me from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK Airport via Manila, Jakarta and Singapore. This trip was completely funded independently and is an honest opinion on the airlines included. This week I will introduce you to Philippine Airlines — the airline that surprised me more than any other on this trip.
The check-in experience at LAX ahead of this fully booked Boeing 777-300 flight was nothing short of chaotic. I was dropped off on the far North Side of Tom Bradley International Terminal, TBIT for short, and the check in desk for PAL where on the far south side but the lines stretched to furthest away doors with no real coordination. It was only once I actually found the PAL desks did I know I was in the right place.
Fortunately for me I was seated in the business class cabin and was able to immediately move to the front of the line. The lady that checked me was incredibly helpful and was even able to check me in to my connecting flight that was, technically, 3 days in the future. Security was a breeze as I utilized both my Clear and TSA PreCheck membership.
Post-security, my number one goal was to find the Star Alliance lounge to kill a few hours prior to my flight. The Star Alliance lounge is probably the best alliance lounge at LAX. Most of this praise is due directly to the fact that it has an outdoor terrace with partial view of the Delta ramp and, more impressively, a plethora of fire pits and comfy couches to lounge on.
Unfortunately, all the spot were taken, so I turned my attention to the so called “media room” where I asked the staff to turn on the Australian GP Formula 1 race. While the race didn’t go the way I had hoped the shower suites were available about an hour before my departure, there’s nothing better than a shower right before a 15 hour flight. The lounge provides towels, dental kits, shaving kits and all the bath amenities you could need and there is no time limit on the use of one of the rooms.
PAL flight 103 departed from gate 206 this particular evening which is quite the hike from the main part of TBIT, but the hallways under the tarmac are lined with moving walkways, so it only took about 15 minutes to get the gate.
The boarding process began with the gate agents making the announcement that, “Because this is an international flight, masks are required.” This seemed like a completely arbitrary statement and proved to be completely false as most crew and passengers went the entire flight without wearing a mask.
Normally, this would be something I would let go but the gate agents work for the airline and should know the requirements of flying between the United States and the Philippines. The boarding process officially started with some of the gate agents holding up signs with the different boarding groups on them. I really like this idea, as it takes away the desire of some people to crowd around that gate well before their group is called.
Onboard I found my seat, 6A, and settled in. PAL uses a rather outdated 2-3-2 business class cabin, which was the main point of dread going into this flight. Seeing as I had booked a window seat on a fully booked flight, I was nervous about having to crawl over a stranger at 3 o’clock in the morning.
The seat was, however, incredibly comfortable. Bountiful legroom and when the bed was in lie flat mode I felt very closed off from the rest of the cabin. If you are a side sleeper like I am, you’ll love how much room these seats have when you’re trying to fall asleep. Major points here!.
The Cabin crew on this flight were nothing short of outstanding, I would like to particularly say thank you to Karen for all the help throughout the flight. The crew were always there when you needed something but weren’t overbearing or hovering. If PAL sees this article just know that you have some amazing people flying on your aircraft.
Meal service started with a scented hot towel and a place setting with metal cutlery. Next was a canapé of prawn toast. To start I chose the duck breast with grain salad. The flavor was great, but the duck was slightly dry.
For the main, I had the beef bulgogi that had a mixture of beef, mushrooms and tofu. This dish was delicious, and I would consider it the best dish of the entire flight. Garlic bread was offered along side, it was the standard grocery store variety, not quite Emirates quality but very good.
Dinner service concluded with a small carton of Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream. Breakfast was beef adobo, a dish I was relatively unfamiliar with but the mixture of beef with its sauce and rice and scrambled eggs was wonderful. The beef was tender and flavorful, the eggs weren’t over cooked and fluffy and the rice was perfectly cooked, this just proves that you can get breakfast right, even after 13 hours in the air!
Philippine Airlines isn’t an airline that I had heard much about prior to booking and to be honest, I was not expecting much but I cannot wait to fly with them again. PAL continued to surprise me. The crew were great, the food was some of the best in the sky and the lie flat seats can compete with Singapore’s when it’s time to sleep.
The carrier has a few things they need to update to compete with the best airlines in the world. I believe that PAL can be a force to be reckoned with in Southeast Asia . The only drawback of flying with PAL is that they are not part of an airline alliance despite ANA, who’s a Star Alliance member, owning 9.5% of the carrier’s shares.
I cannot wait to fly with Philippine Airlines again, and I am already to looking to book my return to Manila as soon as possible.
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