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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Lufthansa technicks are on work on BA A380 in Manila
Dry Martini and nuts for the beginning of the meal. Nuts were not warm and Martini quite plain…
Mango and prawns as appetizer
Fish main course
And mango dessert and cheese ice cream. Tasted really good!
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…
And pre-arrival meal - Arabic mezze
and Prawns with noodles
Tea for the end
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!
Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge
Manila - MNL
Dubai - DXB
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