Airline review: Philippine Airlines business class, Brisbane to Manila

THE PLANE

Airbus' A321neo is the latest generation of its popular A320 fleet: a stretched version of the narrow-bodied original, with longer range.

THE ROUTE

Brisbane to Manila, 8 hours, 10 mins. (PAL has five flights a week between Brisbane and Manila, plus seven flights a week from Sydney and six from Melbourne – but not on the A321neo.)

CLASS

Business, 2-2 configuration. The business cabin has 12 seats across three rows.

LOYALTY

Mabuhay (a Filipino greeting meaning "Live!") has led to Mabuhay Miles, which earns you points on future PAL flights or hotels on PAL destinations.

BAGGAGE

In business, it's 35kg, with a maximum of 32kg per bag. Economy allowance is 25kg.

CHECK-IN

Excellent, swift and efficient. Brisbane International (BNE) has been voted Australia's best airport by Skytrax for three out of the past four years. PAL business passengers use the revamped Qantas lounge, recently extended over three floors. Economy passengers will enjoy the space, comfort and food options on the ground floor.

COMFORT

It's a midday flight, and the window seat next to me has a sign saying "Do Not Occupy" (the seatbelt is suspect). So I'm cocooned, but there wouldn't be much privacy if you had an annoying neighbour (compared to some competitor offerings).

SEAT

IH. Basically this is the same business seat American Airlines (the world's biggest airline) has on its A320 fleet. The seat pitch is 60 inches (152cm), width 23 inches (58cm). By elite airline standards, it's clunky, but it can revert to a 78 inch (198cm) flat bed (which I made full – and comfortable – use of on my overnight return flight).

SERVICE

Friendly, personable, thoroughly professional – among the best I've ever experienced (both ways).

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ENTERTAINMENT

PAL needs to up its game if it wants to compete with the likes of Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines. True, there are over 300 hours of inflight entertainment (both in economy and business), but the movie/music choices aren't great. I watched the superb A Private War on the 15.6 inch screen about legendary war correspondent Marie Colvin and listened to "best of" albums by Carly Simon and Randy Newman.

FOOD

Excellent. The Thai chicken and mango salad is followed by a choice of barramundi, beef brisket or twice-cooked pork belly in oriental sauce with kailan, young corn and egg fried rice. The latter is superb.Then comes a walnut coffee gateau, and a cheese "bowl" with brie, cheddar and chevre. The wine choice is predominantly French (with tasting notes).

ONE MORE THING

There's free Wi-Fi in business.

THE VERDICT

Impressed. PAL proudly proclaims itself "a four-star airline", but it should be aiming higher.

4/5 STARS

Steve Meacham was a guest of Brisbane Airport Corporation, the Fairmont Makati Manila and Philippine Airlines.

See also: Airline review: This is the flight experience of a lifetime

See also: Airline review: 17 hours in Qantas economy class non-stop to London



 

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