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Anonymous7 Mar 2015
I had my first flights with Philippine Airlines today, an unexpected day side-trip from Hong Kong. When this was mooted, I looked at both Cathay (£397 return) and PR (£119 return) for a very similar schedule, leaving about 08.00 and getting me back to Hong Kong for about 21.00, in time for my Cathay flight to London. No brainer for a full-service offering – Cebu Pacific may have been even less but was happy to book PR.
I was able to check-in for both flights online and the boarding pass was e-mailed to my smartphone. I took a taxi from Central (the Airport Express service starts surprisingly late) and went straight to the main terminal – PR uses Terminal 2 but, with no bags to check, it was not necessary to go that convoluted route. I was through security and the e-gates for Immigration in less than 5 minutes. As I did not have lounge access, HK$85 got me an OJ, massive black coffee and a croissant – more than adequate, fresh and tasty.
Departure was from a satellite gate (509), which meant a somewhat haphazard bus run across the apron. Once there, boarding started early and I was soon aboard the A320, reasonable legroom and comfort. Passengers arrived in dribbles so that we were only fully loaded just shy of pushback time. Once airborne after a short taxi, flying time was 1’ 40” which meant an early arrival into Manila.
Service aboard was efficient although I was glad to have eaten my croissant, as the Asian breakfast options were not really to my liking at that time of the morning. Looked tasty, though.
Once into Manila, our gate was about 3 minutes walk from Immigration and I had a choice of 3 free booths. Once outside and past customs, I was in the heaving mass of meet-and-greet families but was quickly away to our meeting venue nearby, the massive hotel-cum-casino complex that is emerging from nowhere just by the airport.
I was back at the airport in good time for my return flight – perversely my e-boarding pass was not accepted in PR’s Manila home base and I had to obtain a paper version from a dedicated counter (no queue). Immigration and security were fast and I was through to a somewhat limited and hot departures area. Wifi was good, however, so I was able to catch up on my notes from the day. The gate was changed three times but eventually boarding started – relatively few passengers for an A330-300 so we were loaded quickly and there some room to spread out. I looked to sit in an emergency exit seat but was refused permission – PR charge US$30 extra for these seats and even though nobody was siiting in them, they would not allow them to be occupied.
Service was fine – I declined anything to eat in anticicpation of The Wing to come (where I am now). We would have been on time but for the need to hold for 15 minutes due to congestion at HKIA. We disembarked into the main terminal and, having printed my Cathay boarding card earlier, I was able to head straight back up to departures.
Philippine Airlines provided an excellent service today – ontime with friendly, smiling service. For short flights, there is really no justification for the price Cathey were asking and I would certainly opt for PR on this or a similar route in the future.7 Mar 2015
Probably true, Ian but I did not know the logistics I was facing and generally like to get to the airport relatively early. That said, I did think even 5.54 was quite late for a World City until I saw the Departures board at HKIA with very few flights departing before 08.00 – is it that regional day trips are not that common for business travellers in your part of the world?9 Mar 2015
It’s more the case that day trips aren’t very feasible given the distances involved. Although Taipei and Manila are very short hops, anything much else is over two hours – once you have factored in immigration (no Schengen zone here!) and travel to/from the airport, day trips become challenging! It’s a common misconception that Hong Kong is close to everywhere in China, but Beijing is 3.5-4 hours’ flight away, Shanghai is a little under 3 hours. Strike out into other countries and you are looking at 4 hours to Seoul, 4 or 5 hours to Tokyo, almost five hours to Jakarta… It’s just not like hopping around European capitals!10 Mar 2015