Susan Buckland flies from London to Manila on Philippine Airlines
The plane: An Airbus 350-900.
Class: Business. PAL's competitive Auckland to London return fare made it worth splashing out for a blissful flat-bed sleep on this long-haul trip. Prices are currently $5009 for a return Business Class fare, or $1459 for Economy.
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Luggage: My stuffed case weighed half the 40kg allowance.
Departure: From London Heathrow Terminal 3. A zigzag through duty-free shops brings you to the Aspire Lounge that PAL shares with four other airlines. You may be lucky to bag a seat with good outside views in this busy and not large lounge.
Flight time: Thanks to a tailwind, it was half an hour shorter than the average 13h 35m between London and Manila. We took off at 9.50pm, which is the way to go on long-haul flights. You can slide into the local sleep time soon after dinner.
Fellow passengers: Like passing ships in the night in this wide-bodied Airbus.
Seat: A roomy 63cm wide with recline, lumbar massage and lie-flat seat controls within easy reach. There's leg room to burn with the seat up or reclined. The mood light was a boon when I dropped my pen.
Space and privacy: Heaps. The spacious 1-2 1 seat configuration in Business meant aisle access from each seat. I got up and down without disturbing anyone. And there were no queues for the two toilets in the Business Class cabins. The even numbered window seats had the wide armrests on the window side leaving the passengers more open to the aisle. I liked the window right next to my seat, 4K, with the huge armrest between the seat and aisle. Especially when settling down to sleep on the 2m flat bed with cosy blanket and soft pillow.
Seat belt: Car-style, over-the-shoulder with a round-the-waist option if you happen to be lying down during turbulence.
Inflight storage: Plenty on the bedside shelf where I plugged in my phone and laptop into a universal power outlet. I tucked a small bag under the extended bed.
Wi-Fi: Free in Business Class. I sent a message with a selfie and glass of Louis de Sacy Grand Cru in hand to the folks back home. The earthlings shot back an immediate reply. I was impressed with the speed.
Entertainment: The choice of recently released and art-house films was modest compared with other visual and audio options but I enjoyed an animated version of Jack London's wonderful White Fang on the big 45cm touch screen before succumbing to sleep.
Dining: Soon after departing London, hors d' oeuvres preceded a three-course dinner. I opted for lighter choices — an entrée of crab timbale with salmon roe followed by grilled milkfish in soy vinegar and steamed mountain rice. Dessert was a blueberry compote. The food was good. I didn't have wine but the selection looked interesting. Night owls can dine on demand in Business Class. I slept through to breakfast, which was served a couple of hours before arrival in Manila. I am now a fan of arroz caldo, a spicy Filipino porridge of minced chicken tossed in rice and topped with salted egg, fried garlic and spring onions and garlic.
Service: Thumbs up. The cabin crew are a real strength of Philippine Airlines with their smiles, warmth and desire to please.
Arrival: The light was fading on our approach to Manila but I could just make out a few of the 7641 islands that make up the Philippines. We touched down half an hour earlier than the normal arrival time of 6.40pm at Manila Aquino International Airport.
Verdict: Philippine Airlines says the cabins have up to four times less noise, as well as controlled temperature and humidity to help reduce jet lag, plus mood lighting that helps passengers adjust to the time zone of their arrival city. The Business Class cabin was certainly quiet. I felt free of jetlag on arrival and had no trouble adapting to Manila time during my brief stopover in the city.
Need to know: From March 29, Philippine Airlines will change its Auckland to London schedule, reducing total flying time to 26h 44m (previously passengers were required to make an overnight stopover in Manila).