CHECK-IN Manila’s unpredictable gridlocks and the distance from my house to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex always compel me to show up earlier than need be. With my flight PR300 departing for Hong Kong at 0800, there was a danger of getting stuck in traffic, which starts to build up in certain areas of the city even before 0700.
I called for a taxi at about 0430, and reached the Centennial Terminal 2, PAL’s base, in 40 minutes flat. I tipped the driver generously for maneuvering swiftly but safely.
As usual, a large crowd of passengers and their numerous well wishers had congregated outside the terminal – only ticket holders are allowed inside the departure hall, hence the crowd. I joined a short queue to enter the building, but I encountered a security guard who seemed to have difficulty deciphering my e-ticket, so he had to summon a colleague to help. I was then waved through to the x-ray machine which scanned both check-in and carry on baggage.
All Filipinos leaving the country have to pay a travel tax of P1,600 (US$34.77), but as a Hong Kong resident, I only needed to pay a “processing fee” of P200 (US$4.34). Only after doing this could I proceed to the check-in counters for flight PR300 where I made a beeline for one which a passenger was vacating. The front row in the first Economy class cabin was available but it was 31H, an aisle seat, and not by the window. I accepted this one rather than another offered that was towards the rear of the aircraft.
The next thing I had to do was pay the airport tax of P750 (US$16.30), which is not incorporated in the airfare as it is in many airports around the world. Following that was immigration, and a security check where I had to take off my shoes but thankfully not my watch.
I usually get a head or body rub at the airside spa before I fly – pricey as most airport concessionaires are, but it does have good therapists. This time however I ignored the urge to get some last minute pampering and instead headed for Gate 2. I sat down near the door and focused on checking my emails, an attempt to finish off my pre-paid wifi “Globe Tattoo” service.
BOARDING I was still typing away when the boarding announcement was made at 0720. Staff made the futile effort of telling us to board by rows, starting from the rear, but no one heeded the instructions.
THE SEAT The enhanced Fiesta Class on PAL’s new B777-300ER features the Weber 5750 seat, described in the Mabuhay in-flight magazine as having “a pitch between 33 and 34 inches” and “an actuating seat pan” enabling the seat bottom cushion to be moved up or forward, instead of tipping backwards or sitting upright. The seat width between the armrest measures 17 inches.
The USB ports in both the Business and Economy class seats allow passengers to listen to their favourite music or view their photos in their seats. Laptop charging ports are found only in Business class seats – anyone in Economy has to go to the rear galley where they can find power.
Click here to see the seatplan.
The Panasonic eX2 digital in-flight entertainment system is found in both Mabuhay and Fiesta Classes. In Fiesta Class, all rows feature nine inch seatback screens, except for the first row, which has in-arm monitors.
For the moment, the menu contains six short films, 12 audio programme channels, 19 of the latest Hollywood and Filipino movies, a music selection of more than 50 CDs, an in-flight shopping guide and a passenger satisfaction form with on-screen instructions in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Passengers can create their own audio playlists from the collection of CDs. Digital games include Sudoku, Bookworm and Bejeweled among others.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Anyone sitting in 31C, 31D, 31G or 31H is most exposed to the activities of the flight crew, particularly during mealtimes. The heavy curtain drawn between Business and Economy was constantly flipped open by attendants moving about the aircraft, and guess whose foot often got flicked by the divider – mine. Twice, an inattentive steward carrying a steel tea pot with one hand spilled hot coffee on my leggings. I let it go the first time but spoke up sharply the second time. While his female colleague asked if she could bring me a damp cloth to lessen the stain, I demurred, admonishing them to be more careful in the future.
Occupants of 31J (middle seat) and 31K (window seat) will not be as bothered as much and at the same time, enjoy the wider legroom between the bulkhead and the seat.
THE FLIGHT For breakfast, we were offered either pork with scrambled eggs or dim sum and noodles. I preferred the latter, which I polished off very quickly.
Despite feeling drowsy, I decided to check if there was anything interesting in the form of a film or TV feature on the IFE. But as this was a one hour and forty minute flight, only short features were available such as Laura McKenzie’s Traveler show.
The small screens mounted on the bulkhead of our cabin displayed the flight path throughout the journey.
ARRIVAL We started our descent into Hong Kong at 0945, flying into a crisp sunny morning. We parked at the aerobridge a little after 1000. Two other airlines besides PAL were assigned to our carousel which meant a bit of a wait, but there was no helping this as it was a peak arrival hour.
VERDICT I was grateful the trip was a short one as the flapping curtain was getting on my nerves. The seat was a vast improvement over the old model, making one wish PAL would hurry up and increase its B777 orders so its more loyal clients (like me) could commute between Manila and Hong Kong in comfort.
PRICE Webfares start from HK$1,040 (US$134) excluding taxes and surcharges.
Margie T Logarta