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Philippine Airlines in First-- PR115 SFO-MNL, PR 503 MNL-SIN

Philippine Airlines in First-- PR115 SFO-MNL, PR 503 MNL-SIN

Old Mar 3, 07, 4:16 pm
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Philippine Airlines in First-- PR115 SFO-MNL, PR 503 MNL-SIN

Philippine Airlines PR115 SFO-MNL, PR 503 MNL-SIN
Friday Mar 2- sch departure 7:25PM, actual 10:10. Sch arrival 4am, actual 4am. (see below, we skipped a fueling stop so flight wasnt really delayed)
What a tough week, I gave up my Thursday reservation on NW confirmed in J SEA-NRT-SIN to stay an extra day, hoping some J space would open on Friday or Saturday. By noon on Friday both Fri and Sat were looking grim, so I started looking for other options. There really wasn’t much! It looked like there were a few Philippine Airlines (PR) flights (YVR, SFO and LAX), some EVA flights (SEA, SFO, YVR) and a China Airlines flight out of ANC that were within reason for a 1 way walk up fare. There were only a handful of seats, regardless of cost, on any other carrier that would have gotten me in by Sun afternoon and given me time to relax before heading back to work on Monday. I found a $1500 C fare on China Airlines (I hear the 343 has new seats in C that are pretty nice), but there were no seats the night I needed to leave.
There wasn’t much info on seat comfort, which was all I really cared about, but I did know that both PR and EVA have an old style business class that I would not allow myself to endure. Although some EVA planes now have a new cocoon seat, I couldn’t find a seat on one of those (I think only ex-LAX). But PR seemed to have F on its planes, so I started looking into that. I called their F reservations line and got right through to a helpful person who told me that the F seats on the 340-300 are the best seats from a pitch and recline standpoint- not quite flat, but close, with a full footrest and plenty of pitch between seats. They quoted me about $2150 ex-SFO all the way thru to SIN or $1600 just to MNL (with a fuel stop in Guam). They have 2 flights on Friday, a 747 and a 343, so taking the advice that the 343 had better F seats I took that option. I actually contemplated the second option and found an SQ flight in C for $600, but the thought of another transfer (PR doesn’t interline luggage to SQ!) So I finally made a reservation and grabbed a flight down to SFO on AS and headed to the PR ticket counter. I learned that the flight I was booked would not be stopping Guam for fuel, so rather than leaving on time (and thus getting into MNL 2+ hours early) they would push our departure out 2+ hours. They issued my ticket and checked me in all the way to Singapore in about 15 minutes. All very courteous staff. With a dedicated F check in line we had really personalized service, because they only had 5 people in F for our flight.
No big deal for me on the delay in taking off, I would rather have 15 hours of straight flying and know that I will get uninterrupted sleep. I headed 100 yards back to the CO President’s Club in the domestic terminal, made some phone calls and then had dinner at the “Firewood” restaurant. Around 9pm I decided to go through immigration in the international terminal and check out the Mabuhay Lounge. It was worth a few minutes of time, I had a nice Bombay Sapphire and tonic and connected to the free wireless. But there weren’t enough seats and the place is pretty worn. It reminds me a lot of the Alitalia lounges I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Since it’s for both F and C, you don’t feel any sense of exclusivity of the F product. That lack of feeling any exclusivity was a continual theme, but again all I cared about was an almost flat seat! The lounge agents were very nice and even convinced me that I should get sign up for the PR mileage program, because I would earn about 12k miles on this flight alone. Ok, I had time to burn so why not…
Then I hit the concourse area and grabbed some more reading material, I just had to know “Kevin’s side of the story” (hey, 15 hours in a small room, I’ll resort to US magazine for entertainment!). I wound up at another branch of Fireside and had a margarita while waiting for the gate call. I would suggest that a bite and drink at Fireside is far superior to the PR lounge, spend your $30 and relax here next to the gate instead of being jammed in a crummy room with all the other F/C passengers. It didn’t look like the gate areas were all that full and I started wondering why PR has a 747 and a 343 leaving within an hour of each other, another guy in F would later explain all this to me, and that the light loads were why we got the nonstop. F and C were called, as well as preboarding for Y. All I can say is that airplanes must heal… I have never seen so many passengers use wheel chairs to the aircraft door and then spring up and run to their seats. Something tells me that this is an approved device for coping with the space constraints and the normal high loads back there in Y.
I was greeted and shown to my seat, I had 2 D because I figured the bulkhead seats would be tight in front. They were, so row 2 is much better, there are miles between row 1 and 2 so you don’t even have a reclining seat in front of you. There are no overheads for the middle bank of 2 seats, but since the F cabin only had 5 people (out of 12 seats) luggage storage was no problem. A tall American guy (Donald I would later learn) sat down in the 2 seat bank opposite me and we began chatting. I was playing with the electric (surprise!) seat controls and IM’ing back and forth with my wife in the process. She wanted to know all about the seats, since this had been consuming the last 12 hours of my life! I noted my approval of the seats, “they’ll do” I said. They are not fully flat, but they are close enough. What they really have going for them is a long leg rest, and with a couple of pillows strategically placed, I knew I would sleep just fine. Donald explained that at 6’4” he had a hard time with air travel and that he had used PR a number of times and was happy with seat comfort. He also explained that because the 2 flights on Friday night, they often didn’t have a full load and could make it to MNL without a fuel stop. He said he’d always picked Friday for this reason and about 60% of the time the flight was a nonstop.
The service was very nice and super friendly. I didn’t want an entrée, just a salad and roll, and so they tried to bring other things to make up for what they thought was wrong (that I didn’t like the entrée). After a while they figured out that I’d eaten in the terminal. The wine and liquor selection was ok, but nothing like I would expect in F. I don’t think the food was F caliber either. But then again I was just there for the sleep! After about 2 hours of chilling out I put my Zune away and kicked back for some sleep. I was about as comfortable as I get on NW’s tilt-o-beds, maybe even a bit more comfortable with all the pillows under me. I slept around 9 hours, which I rarely do in my own bed, and woke up with around 2 hours left in flight.
We were served breakfast, several asian choices and cereal, and coffee, juice, etc. Again the flight attendants were super friendly. We landed right on time at 4am and connecting passengers were escorted around and through immigration and then back up to a security check point. I had to fight with someone to get my liquid prescriptions (in a zip lock bag as per TSA) though. Finally a supervisor came over and I explained that I had gotten these things through the US security check point by declaring them. They let me though.
Onto the Mabuhay Lounge… it’s bigger than the one in SFO, but not really better. Certainly nothing like showers of the things you’d expect after a long haul in F. There is wireless, but it’s only 20 minutes complementary and then nothing. So I made them give me several hours worth of the 20 minute access cards! It’s a good connection, I was the only one in here, but I was able to do VOIP calls with no dropping.
Well, it’s time to head to the gate for the lovely airbus 320 flight to Singapore, only a bit over 3 hours, I’ll post a report of that later. But I am not expecting much from the business class seats on the 320… just dreaming of taking a shower at my house in Singapore at this point!
Bottom line, better than I expected, but overall a very 3 star-ish carrier. There were very few things about this experience that were first class. But not bad deal for the price, or for a last minute way to get home with some decent space and comfort.
stephem is online now  
Old Mar 3, 07, 6:20 pm
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Thanks for the report!
hairpeace is offline  
Old Mar 3, 07, 8:30 pm
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Nice that you were able to make it to MNL w/out the fuel stop in GUM...it allowed you 9 hours of un-interrupted sleep which I'm sure you needed. Thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 3, 07, 10:23 pm
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MNL-SIN: A320 report

Just got finished with the last leg and am home relaxing in Singapore. The A-320 was much better than expected. It is 2x2 seating (I had heard some of the 320s have 3x3 seats front to back ala KLM Europe select) and the recline and pitch beat every US domestic F product I've flown. Plenty of room to relax. It was a comfortable flight, I'm sure the SQ 777 with regional Biz would have been better, but to not have to schlep luggage in MNL to another terminal....

I did feel like a second class citizen upon arrival at Changi... apparently Singapore doesnt trust security in the Philippines because we had to be rescreened before heading to immigration. That's a first.
Bottom line, if you need to get across the Pacific in a pinch, this could be your ticket. Make sure you pick F and make sure you get on the 343 and not the 747. I got to test the Biz seats while we waited for the door to open, at most 10" of recline, so you'd be hard pressed to sleep a full night. PR's Biz is really not much more than a good E+ product. I'm guessing there are some travel agents in the SF or LAX areas who could get this roundtrip in F for around $3k.

Again, for anyone who had the YYZ-LCA fare mistake tix on Alitalia, this is a close comparison in terms of the condition of the planes. The plane and seats are a bit worn. But again, the F seat does the trip for a decent night of sleep!
stephem is online now  
Old Mar 4, 07, 10:31 am
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Thank you for the detailed trip report stephem.
I did the PR flight in F a couple of times from YVR to MNL and your report hit the nail on the head. I wasn't as lucky as you were with the nonstop.
Eventhough the YVR-MNL is a nonstop on one flight we had to stop in ICN for re-fueling due to strong headwinds, second time we went nonstop.
About the security in SIN, it's not because of PR or flight arriving from the Philippines. I recently arrived on SQ from Auckland and we had to go through the same procedure. I think they do "spot" checks. I read a while ago about it but can't remember where.
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Old Mar 4, 07, 12:29 pm
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Originally Posted by stephem View Post
I had to fight with someone to get my liquid prescriptions (in a zip lock bag as per TSA) though. Finally a supervisor came over and I explained that I had gotten these things through the US security check point by declaring them. They let me though.
Always good to see reports about these lesser travelled airlines, but why should MNL security cut you any slack on the basis of what the TSA allowed you to do?
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old Mar 4, 07, 5:12 pm
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Great report! ^
Rejuvenated is offline  
Old Mar 9, 07, 8:05 pm
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Thanks for the trip report.

I seem to recall an anouncement that PR will scrap its F-class and go to a 2-class config, albeit with a new/improved C-cabin.
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