New year getaway CX and Air Swift review OutboundBack to Forum
Happy New year all.
Earlier in 2018 I asked the forum for information on Manila Airport as it was part of the itinerary for a special holiday. So here is the review of the first part of the trip, I hope it is not too long.
The trip was to celebrate the half century of my partner, which over the last few years due illness with various cancers and a brain tumor we thought we would never get to. As it was his birthday on Dec 25th which does make for difficult planning I promised something special for after Xmas. This has taken some planning. I flew back from the sandpit on BA in CW which does not need reviewing as it has been done to death in these columns and is a little like a bus service for me to get home. I had seat 62A Upper deck, slept 6 hours had a reasonable breakfast, left on time / arrived early at 0600, quickly through immigration and baggage and on the M25 homebound by 0630.
After a hectic Xmas with the family north of Manchester we returned to Dubai on the 29th Dec again BA, Upper deck CW, nothing to report bad, nothing spectacular just what we expected, but very pleasant and helpful crew, however disembarkation and baggage delivery was a farce, nearly 10 minutes waiting to deplane due to no one to drive the Airbridge (DNATA not BA) and baggage delivery so very very slow (again DNATA not BA), then faced with a 40 minute wait for a taxi.
So on the 31st Dec we set off on ‘the big birthday trip’ our routing was DXB – HKG – MNL – ENI by air then land and sea to the final destination, Pangulasian island our final destination is in the El Nido area of Palawan. I have to say at this point that some might find the routing via DXB long winded, It was easier for us as I had travelled DXB-LHR for Xmas and the other half started from LHR with me on my return.
We had pre checked in on line with CX and chose seats 14D and 14G, these are centre seats in the forward business cabin of the A330 – 300. CX use the A330 on the DXB route in a 3 class (J/W/Y) config. As BA Gold and One World Emerald we were advised we could use the LH Senator lounge at DXB. The lounge seats around 40 passengers and is next to the LH Business lounge. The lounge was also used by passenger from Egyptair in F class. Being late afternoon and no LH flights it was very quiet. A self service bar was available along with some small selection of sandwiches and pastries. The hot offering was a vegetarian curry, a sad looking chicken pasta, and a beef stew that was decidedly unappetizing.
Boarding was on time and as you would expect from CX was very efficient. I had last flown with CX from LGW to BAH on a 747-200 in 1990. The seating is 1-2-1 in the business cabin on the A330 and the crew quickly served welcome drinks and addressed us by name immediately and a welcome aboard from the CSD to us as OW Emerald, BA Gold. One thing that did disappoint was the actual seat configuration, to actually converse with your travelling companion in the centre you have to lean quite forward as the center console between the seats obscures your travelling companion. Then again when travelling alone this is a benefit.
We departed on time, and soon after the cabin service started, again a shock that the service was so old fashioned no pre drinks service and everything was served from one of those collapsible dinner trollies. The same thing I used in the 80s during my days as a steward. Only one choice of starter, and 2 mains, no desert only cheese, drinks came with the meal service. very soon it was lights off, A small continental breakfast was served before landing which was early due to tailwinds, we landed nearly an hour early at 0515, The IFE entertainment on the aircraft was fairly basic and not at all inspiring with no new movie releases.
HKG was fairly quiet and we passed though transit formalities quickly and went to the First lounge near gate 67 having arrived at gate 6 – exercise done for the day. Please excuse me I cannot remember the name of the lounge I think it was the Wing, but it was extremely well appointed and we ate a very acceptable full English Breakfast in the restaurant.
Our next leg HKG – MNL was due to depart at 0855, due to late passengers we pushed back at 0930 for the 2hr B773 flight to MNL. This aircraft is in a regional config with 2-3-2 in J class. Cabin service was swift with a breakfast offering and at this time of the day no alcoholic beverages available (not that we wanted them). IFE was the same as the A330 from DXB, and again a very nice personal welcome from the cabin manager.
Now I had heard horror stories about MNL and the queues at baggage and immigration, but we must have arrived at a very quiet time as we were through without delay and in the car to the domestic terminal within 30 minutes. I had arranged a private transfer through our travel agent. The journey from T3 to T4 was extremely quiet and took about 15minutes – again I heard of journey times of 2 hours plus due to traffic. It was NYD and traffic was light and with the new elevated highways the traffic problem has reduced considerably. T4 at MNL is the old terminal and woefully inadequate for the amount of flights, all I can say was it was organized chaos, we found the Air Swift check in which was wonderfully manual, reminded me of an age gone by, security was mayhem with no sense of queuing but we got through without issues and escorted to the Air Swift lounge which is reserved for passengers booked into the El Nido Group of resorts and hotels.
Air Swift is the in house airline for El Nido Group Inc. and operates to a private airport on Palawan called El NIDO (ENI) they operate a modern fleet of ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft. They also have quite a reasonable domestic network. Seats are also sold to passengers not staying at the group hotels, so can I say we had quite an eclectic mix of fellow passengers. Our flight was due to depart at 1400 Local and about 1345 we were herded onto a bus and taken to a remote stand and the aircraft, it was a brand new ATR72 only delivered the previous week. At the same time there were other Air Swift, Air Asia, Cebu pacific and other airlines boarding, again organized chaos but it all worked. The flight to ENI was just over an hour at 18000′ so spectacular views were had of the many volcanoes on the Philippines. There is no cabin service but water is available on request. We arrived at 1515 on a very short airstrip only used in daylight with a tropical themed terminal, baggage was collected by the hotel staff and we were whisked away very quickly to El NIDO town and from there a 45 minute ride on a local outrigger boat to our hotel island. A review of the Hotel and return journey to follow.15 Jan 2019