Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Up in the air with Philippine Airlines

The Western lunch in PAL's business class today

Hello from Manila. After almost seven weeks away including a really enjoyable trip to Sri Lanka with two friends and then a hectic two weeks in Japan with 40 friends and relatives, plus a cruise from Tokyo to Shanghai via South Korea, I never thought I'd say the word "Manila" again for a long time.

But in spite of the searing heat and the fact that NAIA-2 still does not have escalators in some areas so that arriving passengers have to lug their (heavy) hand carry luggages up and down some pretty basic stairs, I am so glad to be back in this town.

And tonight, it's back to regular programming, Travelife-style, with a cocktail hosted by the European Union followed by a dinner at the residence of an ambassador for his visiting VIP guests.

TRAVELIFE Magazine in Philippine Airlines' business class


I arrived on a Philippine Airlines flight from Tokyo. The Manila-Tokyo-Manila flight is almost like a commuter flight for me because I go to Tokyo quite a lot and it's also a convenient stopover to almost anywhere including Europe and the United States. From Tokyo, London is just a little over ten hours, while San Francisco is eight hours and New York is 14. Tokyo also has direct flights to almost anywhere and everywhere, so I often use it as a hub.

One of the best things to read in PAL's business class
is the latest issue of TRAVELIFE Magazine.

For this particular trip, I bought a PAL ticket instead of a Japan Airlines ticket because JAL was full for the Holy Week departures. I tend to use JAL more because it has two flights a day, so you've got more flexibility. I also know almost everyone at JAL by now, so it's like flying with family. They've seen my life through the years.


But on this roundtrip ticket from Manila, I realized a couple of great things about PAL.

First, PAL has the only flat beds for a direct flight on business class, and they're incredibly comfortable flat beds. This is certainly the place to catch up on sleep after too many late nights in Tokyo. The cabin, too, is very spacious and the legroom between seats in business is just amazing, considering this is short-haul flight.


PAL has also upgraded its entertainment system so that it's on par with other quality Asian airlines. Today, I watched a movie starring Renee Zelwegger who plays a mousy secretary who writes a blockbuster book to get the attention of the man she loves. It was pretty entertaining.

I have to mention the food as well, as I'm pretty much an expert on airline food by now, and especially on airline food on regional flights. One of these days I'm going to write a blog entry about the most delicious airline menus, because the results will surprise a lot of people.

This morning PAL had three choices for business: a Japanese menu, a Western menu and a Filipino menu created by Chef Jessie Sincioco. Usually I don't like to order the Japanese menu on airlines because I feel Japanese food is very hard to do well when we're talking about airline catering, so the Western menus are usually the safer choices. But my companion wanted to have Japanese, and I opted for the Filipino menu.
The Filipino menu with chicken by Jessie Sincioco


The Filipino meal was good, but it was the Japanese lunch that was a complete revelation. I have to admit that I ate all of my companion's meal. We basically switched orders because after I'd had the fish with rice, I was unwilling to let it go.

The Japanese meal
The delicious fish from the Japanese lunch

The other great thing about PAL's business class is that they offer Travelife Magazine on board. Many airlines now offer Travelife  as part of their reading material for business class, since Travelife is the country's leading travel and lifestyle publication, so this is nothing new; but this time, it was pretty special because it was the first time I was seeing our April-May issue in the flesh!

Proper miso soup onboard

I'd left Manila long before our issue came out, you see, and by the time it was off the press, I was traveling at such a hectic pace that I just couldn't decide on a city or a hotel for my staff to get a copy of the issue Fedexed to. So I saw our great April-May issue for the first time today, when it was offered to me by a PAL stewardess in business class. And I have to admit, I really enjoyed reading it. Hope you all did too -- and if you haven't gotten your copy of our latest issue, please do so before it sells out!


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