FLIGHT REVIEW : PHILIPPINE AIRLINES NEW A330-300 Business Class
No i don't know how to speak tagalog at all but at some point in your life, you will certainly pick up simple greeting like"hi" in other foreign language.
"Mabuhay" is a filipino greeting. It meant in the imperative form of life, thus, Live! This was what the cabin crew greated passengers when i flown with philippine airlines recently.
What's the deal?
Philippine Airlines isn't part of the big 3 airline alliance. Namely Skyteam, Star Alliance & Oneworld. So that being said, it's hard to get redemption tickets on them.
But recently, i found a extremely good deal on an online marketplace platform. It was a company lucky draw ticket. For $500, i get a return business class ticket and 1 night stay in a 4 star hotel. Quite a steal isn't?
So why Philippine Airlines? I have heard of their latest Business Class offerings on their A330-300 introduced somewhere mid last year.
This is a update to their 3 years old business class product introduced back in 2014 featured in the 2-2-2 configuration. It's flatbed product but however doesn't provide much privacy and it doesn't offer direct aisle access to all passengers.
Photo Credit : http://www.destinasian.com
This however is one of the more interesting business class seats as passengers can find themselves staggered like a bunk bed while on lie flat mode. Many airlines are still adopting this particular product (eg. Biman Bangladesh fitted this on their latest 787 this year)
The new product features the Thompson Vantage XL platform similar on other airlines like Qantas A330 (Review coming soon). As you can see, it's a whole lot improvement in the eyes of a solo travellers.
Sorry to couples flying together, you have to bear with the distance away from your partner. Let me talk about it in a few.
Philippine Airlines was also recently been awarded as a 4 star airline by skytrax. So this justify my desire to travel with them and feel it for myself. Their ultimate goal to be a 5 star airline by year 2020.
Check in process at Changi Airport Terminal 1 was fast as usual for Business Class Passenger. Plus i didn't have any check in baggage. One thing that puzzled me was the lack of business class lounge. Ground Handler for PAL is SATS hence they should have offered SATS Premier Lounge to me. However, i didn't probe further as i wasn't too hard up for the lounge access.
Business class passengers were among the first to board.
Seated in 3K today, this seats are leaning towards to the window rather than the aisle. Making it like a cocoon away from the others. (Privacy)
Standard legroom as expected. I just wish that they could get rid of of the bulge.
Headphones can also be found on the seat pocket along with safety cards and duty free shopping catalog.
Shortly after, the stewardess came by and offer some welcome drink. The given choices were Champagne, Still Water or Strawberry Banana smoothie. I don't recall being offered Smoothie as a welcome drink on any other airlines so i went with it naturally.
You can find a simplified seat selection just by the side. Lounge chair mode or flat bed. As well as the firmness of the seat and mood light.
Just further up, you can see a more comprehensive seat control panel. As far as it looks complicated, it's well labelled and pretty much idiot proof.
Towards your left, you can find your storage compartment. As far as it's convenient, i had a mixed feeling about this. I find this compartment too "open" and it makes theft easier. There is also a small chance that your belongings will fly if turbulences gets really bad.
Noise cancelling headphones were offered.
Tada, I am ready to go!
If you are flying on them for the first time, you can find the seat instruction card by the side. Not every airlines provide such instructional pamphlet.
Everything is clearly instructed for easy understanding.
The IFE is pictured on a 16" HD screen. It's extremely responsive and has a good variety of movies available. You can even do your duty free shopping on the IFE!
They also had electronic meal menu but it wasn't updated. Maybe it's still a beta version.
So let's take a quick look at their physical menu instead!
Extensive range of Reds, Whites and Champagne.
As well as a list of Liquors, Beers, Cocktails, cold and hot drinks.
I ordered a glass of champagne to kickstart this whole dining experience. It comes with a small cup of nuts regardless of drinks you ordered (Non alcoholic or alcoholic).
Here comes the appetizer. The beef is pretty tender!
They had a good selection of bread to go along with your meal.
I went ahead with the Filipino Option : Sweet & Sour Chicken. Completely different from the sweet & sour i had expected. It tasted more like rosemary to me. Nonetheless, it was edible.
Dessert was served halfway during my meal. Option given were Haagen Dazs or Apple Blueberry with Vanilla ice cream.
The cake option tasted alright. Not too starchy and it was a good way to end off the meal service.
After tray collection, crew went around with a tray of mango chocolate coin.
On my return flight 2 days later, i was offered another different set of welcome drink. I asked for the smoothie i had on my inbound flight but i was told that they only offer them on US flights.
But i had it on the Singapore - Manila flight, so i am not sure who's speaking the truth. Nonetheless the crew were sounded apologetic rather than informative tone. Perhaps smoothie wasn't loaded up on this flight.
I was offered orange juice, pink lemonade or lemon tea. I went with the pink lemonade which turns out pretty good! Not too sour with a little bit of sweetness.
For appetiser, i went with the salmon scallop option. Delicious!
Followed by the Filipino Choice : Manok sa Tanglad (Roasted Lemongrass Chicken with Fried Rice). Chicken is delicious but the rice grain was real dry and hard.
Followed by dessert, Mango Lychee Pudding or Carmen's Best ice cream. I think they can improve on the presentation here. If you see the previous photo above, you notice how they position the spoon with a napkin underneath. It shows cleanliness and neatness.
I haven't heard of Carmen's Best ice cream until i google them. A homegrown brand based in Philippines. Interestingly, the brand is named after the owner's daughter Carmen.
I went ahead with the Dark Chocolate favour. First bite : Love it. It's creamy and not too bitter for dark chocolate. Ending this whole meal service with a cup of black tea and of course the Mango Chocolate Coin.
So after the satisfying meal, it's time to take a short nap.
This flat bed business class extends to a 79 inch flatbed. I also like to specially highlight the vast amount of table space. Making it possible to work on your laptop without the tray table and your legs crossed comfortably. You can also position your computer screen away from the aisle and that will give you extra percentage of privacy.
The armrest on the right side is collapsible.
With that armrest down, you will get extra inches across your seat while on flatbed mode. Trust me you will need it no matter how plump you are. Being fat is the not question here haha.
The legroom however felt a little cramp due to the shape of the seat in front. Nonetheless, still comfortable for this short flight.
Footwell lights is available should you need them on red eye flights.
On my return flight, i went with seat 5A . This is the seat that's leaning closer to the aisle and it's not really suitable for people who appreciate privacy.
However this seat is wheelchair friendly because of the ability to collapse the armrest. Please also take note that not all seats are wheelchair friendly. I will talk more about the seats next.
With the armrest down, the passenger can "slide" in to the seat perfectly.
WHERE TO SEAT?
In flight experience aside, let's go thru the good and bad seats on this configuration.
Best Solo Seats
You are looking at one of the 4 best solo seats. Namely 2A, 2K, 4A, 4K because of how it's positioned closer to the window and having the rest of the seat frame shielding you away from the aisle.
Unfortunately, as you may see, there are no couple seat on this configuration. Every seat is designed as a single cocoon. But if you like to seat as close as possible, you may go ahead with middle section (Row 1-4 D/G).
Bad Solo Seat
If you are travelling solo and can't manage to get one of the 4 best solo seat, you may also try 1,3,5 A/K. The 6 seats aren't as private but they are still a single seat. If you take a look at the seat map above you can see that seat 5A/5K seem to be on a row on it's own.
I sat 5A on my return flight and found this seat to be a excellent alternative to the 4 best solo seats. As pictured above, Seat 4D is infront of you and there is no one by your side.
With premium economy just behind you, you might a little unease as if someone is eyeing from behind. But once the plane start cruising with the curtains drawn, you will enjoy the space of it. Here as picture is the back view from seat 5A.
Talking about Premium Economy, it looks really welcoming and spacious for someone my size. Hope to try them the next time!
With the collapsible arm rest, people who are travelling with wheelchair can enjoy business class like others. Wheelchair bound passengers can find a big majority of 11 out of 18 wheelchair friendly seats. These are Seat 1A,1D,1K,2G,3A,3D,3K,4G,5A,5D,5K.
I also realised that the aisle is pretty wide. I had no problem pulling my cabin trolley thru it. Pushing a wheelchair however, might be tough.
It was an pleasant virgin experience on PAL. In fact i was really impressed with the cabin crew service standards. I have heard of many unpleasant experience on forums with some even saying they are the worst airline. Perhaps i was just lucky to have a good set of crew on both flights.
If you ask me, do they deserve the 4 star rating? I say yes.
One thing i didn't like was that they didn't care to reply my email to the public affairs department. All i tried to ask for is to allow me to board 5 minutes earlier before the official boarding starts. This will allow me to take a good clear photo of the whole cabin.
If any airline executive managed to read this, please at least reply. I would have accepted a "Sorry we are unable to accede to your request" rather than no response.
Nonetheless, this is my review of the PAL. I hope you did enjoy this review as much as i do.
If you are looking to try their latest Business Class offering, you may do so on their A330 & A350 flights. Be aware that not all the A330 comes with the latest updated product! However their A350 will be fitted with the latest product.
As of press time, the A330 with the latest product can be seen deploying to Singapore, Auckland, Tokyo, Cebu, Hongkong, Melbourne, Honolulu, Shanghai, Xiamen & Sydney.
On the other hand, their A350 can be seen deploying to Bangkok, London & Tokyo. They also had intentions of bringing their A350 to the US.