Business Class Philippine Airlines Trip Reports

Philippine Airlines Business Class Manila to San Francisco | Boeing 777-300ER

[Click above for the video review.]

  • Flight: PR104
  • Route: MNL-SFO
  • Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER
  • Registration: RP-C7776
  • Cabin: Business Class
  • Seat: 5A & 5C

Background

As someone who does trip reports, it’s always a nice treat to be able to fly a new product. Needless to say, I was very excited to be flying Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) Boeing 777-300ER in Business Class from Manila to San Francisco.

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I’ve already reviewed PAL’s SFO-MNL flight on their Airbus A340-300 in Business Class on our outbound flight here. Although the food and service was great, the tired hard product left much to be desired.

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Thankfully our return flight was on PAL’s Boeing 777-300ER, which is a much newer plane.

Check-in

PAL mostly operates at Manila’s NAIA Terminal 2, although there are talks that there will be a re-shuffling of airline assignments across NAIA’s 4 terminal buildings, which you can read about here.

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Quick tip: Make sure you have your itinerary and eTicket printed with your name and flight number, as the security guard at the building entrance will look for it before letting you into the check-in area.

Upon entering the building, our bags were x-rayed and we had to walk through a metal detector. Terminal 2 was a zoo when we got there. There were a few PAL transpacific flights leaving around the same time, so the terminal was packed. Thankfully, business class passengers and Mabuhay Miles elites have a separate line, so we didn’t have to wait long to check-in. The PAL check-in agent was friendly and very efficient. She quickly printed our boarding passes and checked our luggage. We were also reminded that we would need to undergo secondary security checks since we were on a US-bound flight.

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As we exited the check-in counters, we were approached by a PAL security agent and she mentioned that she had a few security questions for us. We underwent the usual security questioning: who packed your bags, did you leave your bags unattended, did anyone ask you to bring anything questions. There were a lot of questions, but the process was mostly painless. After the interrogation security screening, they affixed a small sticker on the back of our passports to show that we have already been screened.

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From there, we walked over to immigration to get our exit stamp. There was no line and we didn’t have to wait.

After immigration was the actual airport security which we all know and love. There was also no line, so we were through within 2 minutes.

We still had a couple of hours left before our flight, so we headed to the Mabuhay Lounge to relax and grab a few bites.

The Lounge

Upon arriving at the lounge, the lounge attendants scanned our boarding passes and welcomed us in. As expected, there were a lot of people but at least there were still some seats left unlike our experience at SFO.

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As you walk-in the lounge, there’s a small seating area on the right which has a TV. The center section is the dining area with some steam tables, made to order soups, and a small manned bar.

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Past the dining area is another rather long room with more seating.

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We decided to get a table in the dining area and check out the food options. On offer on the steam table was rice, marinated milkfish filet, vegetable dumpling, siomai, made to order noodle soups, and of course PAL’s signature chicken arroz caldo complete with accoutrements. There were also a selection bread, pastries, fresh fruit slices, and some desserts.

I was intrigued by the noodle soup, so I ordered a bowl and some coffee as well. They were both very good.

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I also had the chicken shawarma wrap, corned beef roll, and arroz caldo later on before the flight. Awesome!

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Security Screening Part Deux

With just under an hour left before departure, we made our way to gate 2, which is a good 5 minute walk from the lounge. When we got to the gate, everyone had to go through the metal detector, have their bags x-rayed again, and undergo a secondary ticket validation. When we got to the secondary ticket validation booth, they looked for the sticker on the back of our passports. They also asked us where our final destination was and if we packed our own bags. All in all it took 5 minutes to get through the second security theater.

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Boarding

After the validation booth, we followed the signs to the business class line and waited for boarding to be announced.

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Seniors and People with Disabilities (PWD) pre-boarded, followed by passengers traveling with small children. I swear there were at least 35 wheelchair-assisted passengers and a whole bunch of passengers traveling with small children. By the time they were done pre-boarding, it felt like half of the passengers were already on board before they even started to board business class.

Soon enough business class and Mabuhay elites were called to board and we made our way down the jetbridge only to find that the wheelchair-assisted passengers still haven’t completely boarded. There were still about 6 wheelchairs on the jetbridge and it took a while before we got on the plane.

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Everyone boarded using door 1L.

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At the door we were greeted by the purser and directed to turn right past the main business class cabin and galley. There’s a mini business class cabin behind the galley with only 2 rows of seats.

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PAL’s Boeing 777-300ER has 42 angled flat seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. Rows 1-4 are in the forward cabin, while rows 5-6 are in the aft (mini) cabin after the galley and right in front of economy. We were seated in seats 5A and 5C, bulkhead seats on the port side of the airplane.

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Image courtesy of Philippine Airlines

We stowed our bags in the overhead bins got settled. Waiting at our seats were the full size pillow, duvet, and menu. The noise canceling headphones and slippers were in the seat pocket attached to the bulkhead.

The Seat

After settling in, I checked out the seat and its features. PAL uses Recaro branded seats in both Business Class and Economy. The business class seats are the Recaro CL6510 angled flat seats with 78″ of pitch and 20″ width. The seats recline to 165-degrees (a little short of 180-degree flat). The seats are outfitted with PAL’s blue and gray fabric.

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There are 2 seat controls. One is a basic one with all the presets for takeoff/landing, dining, lounging, and sleeping. The other one is hidden under the arm rest, which you can use to fully adjust the seat to your liking.

Also tucked under the center arm rest is a large tray table.

The outer arm rest is also adjustable and can be lowered when the seat is converted into a bed.

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In between the seats at shoulder level is an adjustable reading lamp and a small privacy divider.

PAL’s IFE of choice for the 777 is the Panasonic EX2 system with audio/video on demand (AVOD). Since we were on the bulkhead, the IFE monitors are tucked inside the center console between the 2 seats. You have to pop it up and swivel it to view. I noticed that our IFE screens were smaller (10.6″) compared to the rest of the business class IFE screens at 15.4″ and are installed on the back of the seat in-front.

The monitors are touchscreen, but you can also use the wired IFE remote located on the side of the seat, attached to the center console. As I mentioned above, noise canceling headphones were provided. They are not Bose branded, but they worked well.  The AC power outlet, and USB ports are installed on the front of center console.

There were a dozen or so new Hollywood movies and a few dozen classics. There were also some Asian and Filipino movies available. There were a handful of TV shows available as well. The audio selection had music in English, Filipino, foreign, and instrumental tracks new and old. There were 8 games available, which was pretty limited. There was also a pretty basic moving map app, which I watched for most of the flight.

After checking out our seats, one of the male flight attendants, came up and asked if we cared for a drink. We asked for some champagne and it was hand poured at our seat. Soon after, another flight attendant, Amanda introduced herself and welcomed us onboard. She had a tray with glasses of  mango smoothie, which she also offered to us. After a few minutes, she came back with some hot towels. She also took our meal orders for the flight and asked if we wanted to be woken up for the pre-arrival meal service.

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The Flight

20 minutes before our scheduled departure time of 10:00pm, boarding was complete and the captain went on the PA to announce our on time departure. He also mentioned our  flight time to San Francisco would be 13 hours, but we might be arriving a few minutes early. The purser asked all ground staff to leave the plane and the doors were closed soon after. We pushed back from the at 9:55pm. I guess PAL’s plane aren’t always late after all! 😉

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The safety video played, and we had a relatively short taxi to the end of the runway. We had a relatively short takeoff roll (compared to the “lumbering” A340-300 on the outbound flight). We hit a few bumps on the initial climb, but it wasn’t too bad.

10 minutes after takeoff, the seatbelt sign was turned off, and the flight attendants started their onboard service.

Amanda came by with the cart to offer us amenity kits and newspapers and magazines. We took the amenity kit, but declined the reading materials. PAL partnered with L’Occitane for their amenity kit. The pouch is good quality and definitely reusable, while the contents were pretty decent as well.

After a few minutes, beverage service commenced. We continued with the champagne and it was served with an amuse bouche.

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Soon after Amanda came back to set our tables with white linen and settings, followed by a selection of warm breads. I opted for the mini baguette.

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For the starter course, I opted for the prawn salad and chicken galantine. The portion was generous and it was tasty.

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Next up was the beef solomillo morconitos served with rice. Morconitos is a diminutive form of the word morcón, which is a Filipino-Spanish dish. It is typically a beef roll stuffed with sausages, hard-boiled egg, and some pickled veggies. The meat was tender, and the portion was generous, but I thought the dish lacked flavor.

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Meanwhile, my companion ordered the Aristocrat® chicken BBQ with java rice. I’ve had this dish on one of our previous PAL flights and it was delicious!

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For dessert, we opted for a Filipino favorite: sans-rival (French for “without rival”). It’s basically a meringue cake with buttercream and chopped cashews. This version was rolled into a ball and served with a side of crème anglaise. Awesome way to end the meal!

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The meal service ended about 2 hours into the flight with some hot towels.

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After dinner, I went to the lavatory to freshen up. The business class lavatory was on the small size, but just like the outbound flight it was kept clean and stocked with basic amenities, including a L’occitane handwash, lotion, mouthwash, and cologne.

When I went back to my seat, bottled waters were distributed to all business class passengers.

As I mentioned above, these seats are angled flat, and some angled flat seats I’ve been on before are on such a high slope that I end up sliding down the seat. I’m happy to report that this is not the case for this seat. The seat reclines close to 180-degrees, but since the airplane flies with the nose up at a slight angle, it helps. I reclined the seat all the way and made my bed. Sadly, PAL does not offer mattress pads in business class, but the duvet and full size pillow were very comfortable. I slept comfortably for 6 hours.

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I woke up with a little over 4 hours left on the flight. I was feeling peckish, so I asked one of the flight attendants in the galley to make me a warm bowl of chicken arroz caldo, (one of the mid-flight snacks on offer) and he was happy to oblige. I also asked for a glass of diet coke.

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I dozed off for another couple of hours and woke up right before the pre-landing meal service.

The service started with hot towels.

img_3335.jpgAmanda came by and offered us some mango smoothies.

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Then our tables were set and warm breads were offered. I chose the ensaymada, which is a Filipino style brioche topped with butter, sugar, and cheese – YUM!

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For the starter dish, I had the assorted sliced fruits.

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Then we were offered some coffee or tea.

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I ordered the Filipino breakfast, which was skinless chicken longanisa (Filipino sausage), with salted egg and tomato salad, and garlic rice (Longsilog). We were also offered side dishes of marinated milkfish (bangus) and tuyo (dried fish). As a big fan of Filipino breakfast plates, I was in absolute heaven!

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My companion opted for the Mahi Mahi Fish with Penang Sauce and Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice). He liked it a lot.

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Another round of hot towels were distributed to passengers after the meal service.

I went to the lavatory to freshen up and beat the mad rush before landing, but not before taking a few shots of the main business class cabin.

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Soon the captain went on the PA to announce our initial descent into the San Francisco Bay Area. He also asked the crew to ready the cabin for landing.

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I put my seat upright, opened the window shades, and stowed some last minute personal items in the overhead bin.

The crew did another hot towel service before landing and Amanda thanked us for flying Philippine Airlines.

Arrival

It was a clear day during landing, so we got some really nice views of the South Bay and Peninsula during our approach. We had a smooth descent and textbook landing at SFO at 7:44pm (16 minutes early). We taxied for a few minutes and parked at gate A5, next to a PAL Airbus A340-300.

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The doors were soon opened, and we were one of the first people to disembark. Immigration was quick at SFO thanks to our Global Entry membership.

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The only problem we encountered during arrival was that it took a long time for our luggage to come out. I know PAL priority tags all their business class and mabuhay elite checked bags, but for some reason our bags were one of the last ones out – ouch!

at customs, The friendly CBP officer just waved us through and welcomed us home.

Thoughts

PAL’s Boeing 777-300ER was definitely a much better product than what we had on the outbound flight. The cabin felt more spacious, the seats were more comfortable. That being said, the seats and amenities are still not up to par with other competing Asian carriers like Cathay, EVA Air, Korean Air, Japan Airlines and Asiana to name a few. The above carriers (and even some mainland Chinese carriers like Hainan) offer better seats and added amenities like mattress pads, pajamas, and high-end champagnes. However come to think of it, PAL doesn’t really have any competition on direct flights to Manila from the US or Canada, so they can get away with offering a lower-end business class hard product.

Just like the outbound, I think where PAL really shines is the catering and in-flight service. The food was consistently very good throughout the flight, and the presentation was excellent. Like the last flight, meal trays were not used during meal service. Instead, the dishes were placed right on the linen, which I prefer. The service from the crew was also great on this flight. Amanda and the rest of the crew were very warm, proactive, and very eager to please the passengers in business class. Our glasses were always refilled with drinks without us asking, our dishes were cleared right away after, and we were addressed by name with a smile.

Ground service in Manila was surprisingly pretty good too. The check-in agent who helped us clearly knew what she was doing, and was very efficient. The lounge staff were also very hospitable. We were asked by the staff a few times if we wanted to order any drinks at the bar, and our dishes were cleared right away after we were done.  The only thing I didn’t like was having to go through security 3 times and being interviewed by PAL’s security agents.

Disembarking at SFO was quick and painless, I just wished we didn’t have to wait for almost an hour at baggage claim for our bags to come out when they should have been one of the first ones out since they were priority tagged.

Overall a very nice and comfortable flight on PAL. I can’t wait to try PAL’s newer Boeing 777-300ER full flat seats, which are similar to Turkish Airlines business class seats on their Boeing 777-300ER. Kudos to the crew, especially Amanda who took good care of us during the flight. Thanks, PAL!

(Note: As with all trip reports on travelingfoody.com, this flight was not subsidized by the airline. All flights and accommodations were paid for by us.)

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