Review of Philippine Airlines flight Manila Dubai in Business

Airline Philippine Airlines
Flight PR658
Class Business
Seat 2A
Aircraft Airbus A330-200
Flight time 10:20
Take-off 07 Dec 17, 11:40
Arrival at 07 Dec 17, 18:00
PR   #30 out of 137 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 33 reviews
Published on 14th December 2017
Hi there, welcome to last trip report covering my flights with Philippine Airlines from Dubai to Sydney!
First of all let's have a look at the trip report, at the end you will find the list of all the things PAL should undergo in next years to get 5-star rating, as they are on their ride for that.

Previous reports:
Dubai to Manila
Manila to Sydney
Sydney to Manila
And Manila to Dubai you are joining now!

Let's start with picture of the morning in Manila
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Taxi drivers in Manila are really interesting. Some of them want USD, others want more than five times more for the ride. You have to know how much you should pay them. The first security check is immediately at the entrance to the airport building, after that, a nice attendant took my boarding pass, showed me the way and checked my boarding gate. Immigration and security were really quick, heading to lounge after that.
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On the way to the lounge, I saw they are planning to open bright new lounge! Probably it will include a nice view of the runway and better food (check the end of article).
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The lounge was quite busy in the morning but at 10 AM people disappeared and there were only a members of the staff and a few travelers. A food selection in the lounge is really limited as I wrote in previous reports. If you are Chinese, you will be satisfied, but if you like western breakfast, you will find there nothing but some cereals, white bread, and fruit. It is a very poor choice, I hope a new lounge will offer dining experience at high attitude otherwise they can forget about getting 5-stars.

Boarding is disappointing as usual with PAL. They do not call any groups, it is a mess.
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Upon boarding, I was greeted, welcome drinks, amenity kits, and slippers distributed. The menu was awaiting me at the seat and meal order was taken.
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The seat itself is not bad but comparing to their new product on others A330 seem like from the different world. I guess they should refurbish these aircrafts and have the same product on all of their fleet and travelers not to disappoint if they expect something but get the old product.
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Lufthansa technicks are on work on BA A380 in Manila
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Dry Martini and nuts for the beginning of the meal. Nuts were not warm and Martini quite plain…
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Mango and prawns as appetizer
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Fish main course
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And mango dessert and cheese ice cream. Tasted really good!
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During the flight ipads were distributed offering only a short list of movies and music comparing to yesterdays IFE system in new seats from Sydney…
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And pre-arrival meal - Arabic mezze
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and Prawns with noodles
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Tea for the end
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All in all, it was a quiet flight with the load only 30% in J, again nobody in Y+ and approximately 35% in Y. I do not know how economic are these flights but when I wandered through the cabin during the flight, it seemed like a ghost plane.

So we are now after the last report and as I promised let's go to the list of all changes PAL should undergo on their way for 5star airline. I will judge it as a business class passenger because I traveled in this class and because, as we know, J passengers are always the most important people for airlines as their tickets are those which earns the most money for airlines.
Dear PAL, if you want to become a member of a world best airlines team, in my eyes you should keep in mind these points:
1. Destinations
It all begins with planning the trip. PAL is really strong in the region concentrating mainly on outgoing and Asia passengers. They fly to almost every corner in Philippines, Japan, China, and Malasia are also great covered. They have a huge number of destinations in the Middle East with Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait and much more there. But flights to these countries are mainly filled with Philippinos. No incoming passengers or transferring to other destinations worldwide was seen in aircraft. Also, Australia and America are covered great, wide range of destinations. But what about Europe? Istanbul and London? Rubbish! With the situation these days when every airline reports significant growth in numbers of passengers and their profits, people trying to find the cheapest way to Asia and further destinations (which PAL is able to offer on their routes) and opening new routes (Norwegians Singapore), I can not understand why does PAL not focus on opening new destinations in Europe and attract passengers from America and Australia to come to the Philippines and mainly - transfer there. With their competitive prices, they are able to compete really great in this world but I think they do not see their potential in today's world. They can not only fly Philippines people. They need transfer passengers eg. LHR to SYD, MEL to YYZ. And opening new destinations in Europe could help them. They fly to London, a great hub with many airports. But why there is not also FRA or CDG/ORY? Or if you are afraid of these big hubs or you are not able to get slots there, let's try middle Europe - in Vienna, there is such a competition with Thai and EVA, but what about Prague? Only China Eastern and Hainan, mainland China operators. I think this might be the way. I read some news about getting to Rome, Hamburg, and Paris but silence after that…

2. Partners
PAL is a member of no alliance. That might be a problem for passengers, but it is a great handicap for the airline. Let's start with codesharing and connections. Let's imagine PAL like airline focusing on connections. If they were a member of Star Alliance, passengers arriving with Ethiopian, ANA, ANZ, Thai, Air Canada, Asiana, EVA, Garuda, Singapore, United and others flying to Manila could connect directly on one ticket to the huge range of destinations in the Philippines that PAL offers. Today PAL offers only these codeshares. From my point of view to PAL would suit the best Star Alliance as most of the airlines flying to MNL are members of this one. With becoming a member they will be also a reliable partner airline for customers. Let's see it from the view of miles. If they were a member of *A we could redeem our miles eg. from Miles and More or Aeroplan. Also, we could collect miles for our miles program. Today you can collect only to PALs program (nobody is interested unless living in the Philippines), ANA and Etihad. Nothing for Americas, Australians or Europeans. Why would I give them a chance if I will get no worth miles for my money spend?
In my point of view, Philippine Airlines are in need of becoming a member of any airlines club.

3. Fleet
PALs holding fleet will get significant help in 2018. First of all 6 A359 will arrive and replace outdated and inefficient A340. Good step! Than new A321neo and A321neoLR will also arrive in next years replacing A320 and making the airline able to growth destinations. A359 are a huge step not only to accommodate passengers, fly efficiently, eco-friendly and for longer distances but also increase comfort on board. In this point, PAL is on a great way.

4. Cabin
Hand in hand with new fleet there is also a question about cabins in it. As I wrote in previous reports, PAL started retrofitting their A330 in all cabins. Business class got new Vantage XL seats like in Qantas or SAS, also true premium economy was introduced and economy passengers got new seats with more legroom and (!) personal IFE screens. It is must these days to have it on board.
So some of A330 are retrofitted and I hope all A359 will get the same cabins. But what other aircrafts? How can I know, as a passenger in any class, that if I buy my ticket, I will get the same comfort in any aircraft? That must be clear and PAL must undergo the retrofitting process in all their planes at any costs. Whether they want it or not, there is no choice for 5star airline. We need to have the same comfort in all A330s, 777 and A359. 777 are fitted with angled seats in J which is unacceptable these days. Also, 2-3-2 is bad with no privacy or comfort. They need to get there their nice Vantage XL seats, as well the others A330s.
What about A321? Well, they have to divide them. Those flying in the Philippines in the region could be with no screens in Y and nowadays J seats. But with arriving new aircrafts determined to fly international, eg. Kuala Lumpur or Cairns, there PAL must go much further. Screens in eco will be must and when talking about J, PAL could have a look at americans operators installing fully flat seats to their one aisle aircrafts for flights to Hawai and transcon. That might be a great choice for PAL. It does not have to be Vantage seat, that would be inefficient, but some modifications are needed.

5. Ground service
In destinations I was departing from, PAL uses dnata as their handling group. It all worked fine for me as J passenger at the check-in, but the economy lane was incredibly long with only a few counters working. PAL should teach their customers to use their online check-in and make a great working app for Windows, Apple, and Androids. We can all check-in online and receive boarding passes like Lufthansa does it - SMS, email or in the app. Then will be possible only use baggage drop off, which will make shorter lines.
Also, boarding is a mess, they should strictly follow boarding groups, making boarding first for their priority passengers, then for families and the rest of Y.
I had no issue with bags but read many complaints about this part so maybe live tracking system (in the new app) would be something handy for passengers and it would also make great PR opportunity for the carrier as this would be something revolutionary in Asia.
They might consider also improve the transfer experience. When we look at Turkish Airlines, they offer a transfer hotel on connections more than 6 hours in J, 10 in Y when a passengers connection is forced and no previous flight is available. That makes sense and also China Southern and other carriers do so. That might be, at least for J, the way. At least for those flights that PAL changes and makes an overnight Manila stay that was not planned (my case).

6. Lounge
As I mentioned in this report, Mabuhay lounge needs a huge improvement but according to the photo shown here, it is on the way. That lounge should include more showers and bigger toilets, great bar (let's get inspired by SWISS), dining area with a buffet including western and Asia meal hot and cold, live cooking facility with a few meals on order. That is a trend these days. Seating area should include some sofas, not only chairs and armchairs. Working spaces also needes, dark rooms would be fine. That's about Manila. But also overseas it is an important point - J passengers start there their journey! PAL has also one lounge in America (do not know the attitude of it) and uses lounges of other carriers like Alitalia, ANA and then many brands lounges like Plaza or Marhaba. They should go thoroughly through the list of lounges and make sure that every of it is top notch. Also if they would become a member of some alliance, that would rapidly help them and enable customers to use lounges of many carriers.

7. Crew
A crew on my flights were outstanding, made really great work and I have no complaints there. All are really nice, but where I see a gap in their training. The service is always a little different, on every flight was something like not on the previous. It might be plus, but somebody also could see it as a minus.
Also on my flight from Sydney was a little disappointing before boarding started as it was time to board and the crow were boarding themselves one by one. Ground staff was nervous with PALs crew to come late with duty-free shop bags in their hands. Interesting.

8. Entertainment
Bad points at here. As I said, there are no screens on many A330! In J you will get ipads, but economy? That is about to change with retrofitting that must be done on all aircrafts. But if we all will have our screens, what should it contain? This is also a point where PAL needs a lot to improve. It makes no sense for me, but many people judge airlines by this criteria so PAL should not underestimate it.

9. Food
The most important part of a journey to everybody. I will judge only meals in J as I did not see those in an economy.
According to what I had, I can say that the food was fine. Just fine, nothing that would make me return to PAL. Nuts with aperitif were served only on one flight out of four, canapes twice. That should be a norm on every flight, nuts should be warm. Pal should keep in mind that serving meals on a tray is not acceptable on long flights these days. They give you white sheets on the table and then put there a tray. Rubbish. they have time for serving everything piece by piece, so do it!
The wine list was fine, liquors and others also, but it needs something more. Some kind of signature drink would be a great idea (KLM Flying Dutchman) and they need to go further. Much further.
And meal itself? Well again fine but nothing outstanding. Dine on demand is the great step but should be more promoted. All the mains looked the same with some kind of not good looking sauce on it. Well, that is bad, bad… I think they should consider attracting some famous chef. It is great PR step for people and that chef could help the airline not only with food but also with the presentation. They need big plates, teach crew how to serve the food, they will need to know something about design. Maybe going to Do a Co would be also a good idea as they serve a perfect food. So in J, there are two points - food quality and styling.
In economy there are two ways - serve luxury meals like Turkish or serve normal meals like many carriers (please not as american airlines) and let passengers choose and pay for a better one. Let's inspire at Austrian Airlines which catering is…the best I have ever tried.
All in all - PAL needs a huge improvement in this point of service!

10. Amenities
Amenities in J were absolute alright, I also saw amenity kits in Y! Good point, PAL! It was a package like on Turkish Airlines and seemed good. They might consider also pajamas in J on overnight flights, that would also make them famous.

11. Communication
PAL responses really great on their FB page, also reacting to comments on other internet sites where people share their experience. I think at this point they can not do more.

So these are eleven points which, in my eyes, would help PAL become a 5-star airline. But will it be possible? Can they handle it? That will be a surprise in next years and I will be happy to follow up it!
See more


Philippine Airlines

Cabin crew8.5

Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge


Manila - MNL


Dubai - DXB





  • Comment 422847 by
    Singularity 3 Comments

    I'm delighted to be informed that PAL is building a new lounge at MNL T2. But for me, it doesn't make sense. It would be better if they just delay the project because they are planning right now to build a new 'T2 Annex' which will be the extension of the international wing. They could just build a newer and much larger lounge there. But still, there are legal issues being faced about the property. Their goal of reaching their 5-star status is too aspirational, if not laughable. Just recently, LH was awarded 5-star airline of Europe, and this further eroded the prestige of Skytrax airline ranking. Awarding 5-star to PAL will only further erode the credibility of Skytrax. They still have a lot of work to do. Management is very very conservative and afraid of change, and is not inspiring its employees. Most employees especially managers and VPs are already old and are too attached to their comfort zones. They don't listen to their customers and seem to be oblivious of the new products and services being introduced by some of the best airlines in the world, like recently QR, SQ and EK. They don't have the customer service acumen. There is too much politics involved in management, to the point they have created a rotten corporate culture. Right now they're already having difficulty in reaching 4-star status, further compromised by the hesitance of a foreign investor who is supposed to buy 40% stake from the airline and will do the consulting work for the airline. And yes you're right. Being not a member of an alliance will make them less competitive. I really hope they join oneworld.

    • Comment 422848 by
      Tulakpohvezdach AUTHOR 8 Comments

      Thank you for deep insight in PAL! I just judged the product and was not able to find any of information you are writing about. Thanks for that! I have to agree with you on all parts. If they are building a new terminal, then they could wait with the lounge for it, building it now seems like wasting money. Also about employee comfort and conservatism in management - that is the same in nearly every western company, don't you think?
      I see better connecting options with Star Alliance for them as many airlines fly to the Philippines, but I do not have the best overview here.
      And 5-star rating, let's be realists - it is not reachable for them. They will be glad if one day they will get the 4-star rating. Let's have a look at Lufthansa as you have mentioned. They have the superb First class product, with less impressive J (and normal economy, I think every economy is the same) and we all know that rating LH 5-star is...a little disappointing at least. Nobody knows what they promised (or paid?) to Skytrax, but it seems a little peculiar.

    • Comment 428015 by
      airboeing 2 Comments

      'But for me, it doesn't make sense. It would be better if they just delay the project because they are planning right now to build a new 'T2 Annex' which will be the extension of the international wing. '
      Only problem is, PAL isn't sure whether this will happen or not - they still have land issues with the owners in the land they want to build the new annex in.

      'Their goal of reaching their 5-star status is too aspirational, if not laughable. '
      This is what they said about Garuda just a few years ago - look where they are now.

      'further compromised by the hesitance of a foreign investor who is supposed to buy 40% stake from the airline'
      From what I hear, the deal will definitely go through this year - PAL are working on clearing any debt they have (especially from that 6 billion pesos they paid to the government last year), and Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, ANA, and Hainan are interested.

  • Comment 428052 by
    airboeing 2 Comments

    Great review! You should try posting your review (or a more condensed version of it) and your suggestions here: PAL Customer Service are usually more responsive to issues and concerns there compared to their Facebook page.

    Also, a few things I would like to say regarding your suggestions for PR:
    ' I can not understand why does PAL not focus on opening new destinations in Europe'
    The main problem for PAL here is that they currently don't have the equipment they want for more European flights (that is, until the A350s start getting delivered) - the 777-300ERs they have is too much plane for some of the European routes they want to start (namely, FRA, MUC, CDG, and FCO). They also don't have a lot of money to exercise their A350 options to expand further into less higher yielding destinations inside Europe, although I expect that to change once their investor/s come in later this year.

    'They need transfer passengers eg. LHR to SYD, MEL to YYZ'
    There are plenty of connecting pax from Australia to LHR and vice versa - PAL offers some of the cheapest flights for connecting flights.

    ' PAL could have a look at americans operators installing fully flat seats to their one aisle aircrafts'
    That is their plan - they will install 12 fully flat business class seats on their A321neoLRs. And the new A321neos will come with seatback IFEs on both Y and J.

    '777 are fitted with angled seats in J which is unacceptable these days. Also, 2-3-2 is bad with no privacy or comfort. They need to get there their nice Vantage XL seats, as well the others A330s.'
    If my sources are correct, once the A350s start getting delivered, they will also begin work retrofitting the remaining A330s and 777s, possibly with their new hard products, but don't quote me on that. The only problem they have with the plans is money - they aren't exactly flush with cash right now, so they have to spend wisely and conservatively.

    Also, about the new lounge - yes, work on a much bigger two-floor lounge is underway, and it will have more dining options, sleeping pods, private work spaces, massage rooms, showers, and so much more. They expect work on it to be completed by Q2 2018.

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