Airline review: Philippine Airlines (PAL) premium economy, Manila to Sydney

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-300.

THE ROUTE

PR 211, Manila to Sydney.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Mabuhay Miles (a Filipino greeting meaning Live) earns you points on future PAL flights or hotels at PAL destination, but isn't linked to other airlines.

CLASS

Premium Economy. PAL has two seat configurations for Premium Economy on the A330-300. This one has 24 Premium economy seats in a 2-3-2 configuration.

DURATION

7 hours, 45 mins.

GOING GREEN

Philippines does not offer a carbon offset option to passengers.
 

FREQUENCY

Daily from Manila to Sydney (and, since November 2019, Melbourne).

BAGGAGE

20 kg, plus 7kg carry on luggage.

CHECKING IN

Not a typical experience, since I'm coming from the island of Boracay and I've checked my luggage to Sydney in there.

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I still need to identify my bag at Manila before boarding the international flight, but it is painless.

LOUNGE ACCESS

Manila Airport is second rate when it comes to many facilities we've come to expect -- and lounge access is just one example. Economy and Premium Economy passengers can't pay a fee to enter PAL's Mabuhay Lounge, which is accessible only to departing passengers travelling Business Class or to certain Mabuhay Miles members.

THE SEAT

My allocated seat is 22G, central aisle. But I move after takeoff to 22K, a window seat with no one in 22H.

COMFORT

It's hard to complain when you're sitting in Premium Economy with no-one sitting next to you. But for the record, the Premium Economy seats in this version of the A330-300 have a 38 inch pitch, 19.55 inch width and an 8 inch recline, with leg rest, centre "cocktail table", and pull out mini table.

ENTERTAINMENT

Premium Economy seats have a 13.3 inch touch screen monitor (compared with 10.1 inch monitor in economy and 18.5 inch in business). Choose from 300 hours of the latest movies , TV shows, music and games.

SERVICE

PAL has gained plaudits recently for being one of the world's most improved airlines, and its cabin crew has contributed hugely to its reputation. Both male and female cabin crew are dressed less flashily than more expensive Asian airlines, but their eagerness to make your flight as comfortable as possible is genuine.

FOOD

This in an overnight flight, leaving Manila at 21.40. But when you're offered a rice noodle salad with sweet/spicy dressing, followed by pork belly Sinugba (grilled pork belly, pickled papaya, visayan rice and vinegar dip) it's hard to say no even though you're exhausted.

The alternative, as always, was chicken. In this case Bourbon chicken (stewed chicken in sweet soy sauce, ginger, apple and served with beans, carrots and steamed rice), or Filipino beef tapa.

Dessert, "a moist chocolate cake", might equally be described as a plastic wrapped cookie.

ONE MORE THING

Does anyone use their amenity kit, any more? The socks don't fit. And how many hours have you queued up outside a loo waiting for the person inside to work out how to open their security-cleared tooth cleaning pack?

THE VERDICT

I'm a fan. This was the fourth time I've flown PAL in a year, and each flight has been better than the last.

3/5 STARS

Steve Meacham was a guest of Philippine Airlines and Philippine Department of Tourism.

See also: Is premium economy worth the extra money?

See also: Airline review: Philippine Airlines business class

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