There’s a wide range of direct flights from Hong Kong to Manila, and the biggest airlines on this route at Cathay Pacific, Philippine Airlines (non-budget), Air Asia and Cebu Pacific (budget). I’m used to go to Manila with Philippine Airlines, as they are considerably cheaper than Cathay and also offer five flights per day to and from Manila.
Check-in was done at the Kowloon Airport Express station, where they share a counter with a few other airlines. I didn’t purchase my ticket through the PAL website, which means you can only reserve your seat during check-in (whether online or at the counter). This is a negative for me, as I do like to choose my aisle seat in advance.
At the airport, check-in for Philippine Airlines flights is normally done at Terminal 2, but since I did it at Kowloon station, I could enter the secured area through Terminal one – which was great, since that day the flight was assigned to gate 24, quite close to the security checkpoints.
The flight was scheduled to depart at 11.15am and boarding started at 10.50am. It was around 11.40 when we took off, 25 minutes behind schedule.
The aircraft was an Airbus A330-300, and while looking modern and well maintained, it has a very basic interior. The flight did not have inflight entertainment; instead they offer the myPAL player app that can be downloaded to stream their movie and TV show selection. The app works quite well, but it’s definitely not convenient, as watching anything from the app can consume a lot of battery from your mobile device and the seats don’t feature any USB or plug port.
Being a short haul flight, Philippine Airlines have a reasonable meal service, offering a simple lunch, instead of a mere sandwich or snack offered by other carriers (looking at you, Hong Kong Airlines)! The offer was fish or beef with veggies and rice, with a dessert from Goldilocks, a famous Filipino bakery. They also had a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks, plus beer and wine.
In this occasion, I really had the impression that the plane was understaffed, something I don’t even know if it’s legal. One of the attendants was serving food on both aisles of the plane, helping their colleagues with the food cart – he was just running from one side to the other! They scrambled to serve the full economy class, and by the time I got my meal, the pilot was announcing our descent into Manila. Good thing that I was not hungry, because they also rushed to get my tray barely 10 minutes after giving in to me.
Despite the initial delay, we arrived on time at 1.30pm. Most PAL flights to and from Hong Kong arrive at Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Despite being the oldest terminal with much less facilities than Terminal 3, its size compensates as you can get to the luggage belt in around 15 minutes.
To finalize, Philippine Airlines is a solid carrier that is investing a lot in improving the flight experience to its customers. They are not quite there yet, but if you want the best cost for a non-budget airline, I definitely recommend it!