Flight check: Cairns to Auckland on Philippine Airlines

By Ellie Hutchinson

Ellie Hutchinson flies PR218 across the Ditch.

After the food was served, many passengers took advantage of all the spare seats and slept. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Daniel Betts
After the food was served, many passengers took advantage of all the spare seats and slept. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Daniel Betts

Plane: An Airbus A320.

Class: Cattle class.

On time: We departed on time at 8.45am, despite the airline's reputation for being late.

My seat: Lower your expectations. The aircraft is old. The seats are tired, stained and falling apart — I thought it was just the seat pocket in front of me that was bottomless, but when I moved to another aisle seat and everything fell out again after a further two attempts, I had to laugh. Looking around, I noticed the velcro was in the same state of disrepair on every seat back. I was glad there was an empty seat in the middle between me and the lady at the window seat where I could put some things. There were no headphones in our seat pockets, so I reached over to grab some from across the aisle for us.

How full: Half empty.

Fellow passengers: Mostly adults, a couple of families with young children, one youngster a few rows in front didn't sleep and cried continuously throughout the flight, which was something I haven't experienced before. Most people had obviously come in on the long-haul connecting flight from Manila, because after the food was served, the lights went out and most of them moved and took advantage of all the spare seats, choosing to lie down and sleep.

Entertainment: In-flight service is very poor with no in-seat TVs — quite challenging for a five-hour flight. The drop-down TVs would tuck away into the ceiling whenever there was a bit of turbulence. When they were playing it was a Filipino film with subtitles, so I was pleased I had my laptop. The new video for Philippine Airlines' 75th Anniversary campaign "The Heart of the Filipino" played on repeat as we were waiting to disembark and being very catchy (please google and listen), it stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Food and drink: The food was average — sausages, scrambled egg and mushrooms, which were nice and hot. Snacks were served halfway through the flight and drinks were brought round regularly.

Service: Staff were beautifully presented. I had to ask for a New Zealand immigration card towards the end of the flight when I saw other people filling them out and realised my neighbour and I had been missed out.

Toilets: Too scared to go.

Luggage: A very complicated chart on their website lists all destinations with baggage allowances according to what class you are in. From what I could see, Philippines to New Zealand was 30kg for Economy.

Airport experience: Cairns airport is small and on a Monday morning at 7am was empty. We flew through security without a hitch and had plenty of time to relax on the other side before the flight. Sadly all the shops were closed apart from duty free.

Would I fly again: I wouldn't say it would be my preferred airline, but if I was on a budget and the journey wasn't too long, I would consider it. I have read that PAL's goal is to become a five-star airline in five years with service innovations, network expansion and fleet modernisation. Judging by the plane I was on, this flagship carrier has a bit of work to do towards these initiatives.

- NZ Herald

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