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Old 01-12-2010, 11:22 PM   #1
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[Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines (Long!)

Welcome to my second Trip Report!


This will cover most of the flight from Manila to Hong Kong and back, and some of the food I ate. I will be posting in parts as photos may not fit on a single post.

CONTINUED BELOW
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:34 PM   #2
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

INTRODUCTION
In 2007, PAL emerged from bankruptcy protection and went into expansion. Twenty or so A320 family planes were ordered new from Airbus for regional routes. On the other hand, six 777-300ERs were ordered from Boeing. They had deposits at Boeing for 747-400s ordered prior to the ’97 shutdown, which were at risk of being forfeited if no aircraft were ordered from the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the 744s and 343s were to be refurbished. An order for A380s was imminent.

The prospects at PAL were really very rosy then. Soaring profits and an aggressive expansion plan would have seen them launch a direct route to San Diego (via Vancouver), operate twice daily LAX using 77Ws (the new morning service would compete directly with DL/NW), and eventually return to Europe.

But all of these were pre-empted by recent events. Oil prices shot up. PAL lost millions in fuel hedging when prices dropped. Then there was the global financial slump. Flights on their flagship trans-Pacific routes were leaving half-empty. As if things could not get worse, the Philippines was downgraded to Category II by the US FAA, thus preventing any new flights on the lucrative routes to the USA.

It is because of these that the first two 77Ws at PAL are limited to flying regional routes. The four 777-3F6ERs had all been deferred until 2012, but the two 777-36NERs from GECAS could not be delayed any longer.

PAL scurried to find a suitable destination for the two planes. Traffic rights between the Middle East and Gatwick from MNL were denied during the latest round of ASA meetings with Kuwait, and the UAE. Hence, PAL decided to put them on the MNL-HKG, MNL-NRT and MNL-Oz runs. So they have to re-open Brisbane in March.

Ads were placed all over enumerating the new features of the aircraft. In Mabuhay Class (business), the 77Ws have the same Recaro lie-flats as the 744s, but with different upholstery. Economy, on the other hand was fitted with Weber seats instead of Recaro. At last, AVOD in all cl*****! 777 fares and mileage redemption promos were launched by the airline.

BACKGROUND
It is with the introduction of the 77W on the MNL-HKG run that my dad and I decided to finally book a much needed HK vacation, also coinciding with some business meetings. We could never get enough of the place – so many things to eat and buy. My dad and I were actually on a hectic schedule – meeting with several people and buying some equipment for his office. He specifically wanted to travel with me this time since being a foodie, I had a ‘database’ of local restaurants worth eating at. And my dad has been craving for roast suckling pig, roast goose, congee and har gau. (Well, me, too!)

BOOKING
Traveling to HK this time of the year is not at all cheap. Prices of packages can sometimes be higher than booking direct. The Yuletide holiday rush is only beginning to wane down and Chinese New Year is just a few weeks away. But we decided in favor of what a travel agent may offer, rather than having to hang on to as many booking references.

PAL is my only option flying to HK. Cebu Pacific has been lacking on the customer service side of things. CX staff are quite rude, both on the ground and up in the air. HK Express has quite limited frequency to MNL.

After I had been emailed the booking codes and itinerary, I rang the airline just to check on the flight status. My departure date was supposed to be the last flight of the 77W on the MNL-HKG run as the plane will be used on the daily MNL-NRT flight. My return was to be on a refurbished 747. I likewise booked whatever duty free items I planned on buying.

DEPARTURE
We woke up early just to be at the airport two hours ahead of the scheduled 8 AM departure. Who knows what security measures await us. Oh wait, we are not traveling to the US!

Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2) is exclusively used by PAL – the North wing for international flights and the South wing for domestic. Though specific counters are assigned for flights, passengers can actually check-in on any counter especially if the lines are short.

It took us only 10 minutes queuing. I then decided to buy some ice cream as presents for our HK friends. It turns out that with the new security measures in place, we have to check-in the ice cream ourselves! It used to be that the souvenir shop would do that for us. And I am not sure if this is still practiced in Terminal 1 as ice cream is available even at the gate area. So there, I had to queue up at another check-in counter again.

Both the airport tax booth and the immigration counters had long lines but they were at least moving. Lines were only held up by this very inconsiderate group of middle-aged Taiwanese tourists. About 20 of them, had lined up at the immigration counters yakking out loudly about their time in MNL. When it was their turn to get stamped, only then did they realize that they forgot to fill up the forms. But they stayed there nonetheless, blocking the lanes! How inconsiderate! They turned the immigration area into one big marketplace. (Talk about stereotypes. And I heard people can get much worse up in the Mainland.) [Luck #1] Good thing for us, the immigration officer realized this and asked my dad and I to come forward to the front of the line. After that, we were off to the final layer of security, then to the gate.

Since PAL’s first 77W is assigned only on the double daily turnaround to HKG (PR300/301 and 306/307), it was towed to the gate quite early from the hangars. Actually, I saw it being towed at around 6AM while I was checking in. This terminal is really quite nice as you can see the airside through the glass walls even from the landside area.


A PAL A320 beside us bound for SIN


I had to make sure I caught a photo of the reg:


The waiting area was not that crowded. Perhaps because the adjacent gate was already vacated by the flight to SIN and passengers on my flight had spread themselves out.

I prefer Terminal 2 anyday than the mess that is Terminal 1.

Boarding was orderly.


Business class was re-upholstered with a more-colorful and less “slippery” seat cover. Pitch was increased to give it more recline (almost 180 degrees). The newly-installed products on the 744s reportedly suffer from the “slide-down-while-sleeping” syndrome. But loads on this cabin were light for this flight.


PAL seemingly had the same dull aqua/ light blue seat covers as on their aircraft, but the colorful headrest covers make a lot of difference!


[Luck #2] The seat overall was better than I expected. Seat pitch is outstanding! This should be 34 inches but it feels roomier than on the 744 which also has 34 inches. The only disappointment is the configuration – with 10 abreast instead of the standard 9. Passengers of size will definitely have a hard time. Luckily, most of PAL’s passengers aren’t that obese.


USB and cable ports, coat hook, IFE controls and the touch screen PTV. This is way better than the touch screen PTVs on TG. On here, there is no lag time when you press on the button.


First time for me to use a “fold-out tray.”






Peephole through business class


From where I was, I could clearly see whatever was going on in the front-most row. An FA came by and called the attention of the man sitting on the bulkhead,

“Sir, you are not allowed to leave your bag in front of you. You have to stow it in the bins or under your seat,” she said in a very calm and soft tone. Not demeaning or condescending at all, as you would get on CX or any western carrier. The FA then continued, “Would you let me do that for you?” And she did!

She said the same thing to the lady beside this guy and even said, “Let me stow it for you, as the overhead bin might be hard to reach.”


Service on this airline is really warm and sincere. It is also warm on SQ but a bit robotic. It is downright rude on CX. There are rotten eggs here and there, and in those cases, I ask for the comment form and submit it when on the ground.

CONTINUED BELOW

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Last edited by hikouki; 01-12-2010 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 01-13-2010, 12:00 AM   #3
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

The IFE was turned on during cruise. It was a big disappointment. The choices are VERY limited!!! I’m not sure it is the same case on the refurbished 744s.

This is all that you can watch,


Play,

And listen to.

 border=

And here is another GREAT disappointment. The meal trays have SHRUNK!!! Whatever happened to the warm bread rolls with butter and jam? How about the fresh morning fruit? Yikes, even the plastic cutlery has been downgraded to an inferior quality.


On the other hand, this is cost-cutting twice over. Once because of the recession, and twice because of EconoLight. The latter is a “low-cost” product that PAL introduced to compete with 5J. Previously, passengers were only given 15kg baggage allowance, and NO food. Now they receive food. So homogenizing meals to substandard allows them to lower costs for everyone. Yikes!!! Well, at least they have not gone the way of MAS with their lunchboxes.

My dad took the beef option above and I got the dumplings:


My seat is directly above the wingroot. No worries, I’m wearing clean underwear, and I’m not from Nigeria. I was worried this seat does not have a good view outside. [Luck #3] It turns out that the plugged areas are only on rows 33 and 36.


Photo at cruise:


One peculiar thing about this flight (and on my return) was that the purser was wearing a barong (traditional Filipino shirt for men), instead of the usual western-style coat. AFAIK, only Line Administrators/ Check Pursers wear the said uniform at PAL. Standard pursers wear the coat and tie uniform. It could be a result of the recent retrenchment so the airline could cut costs. I heard many of the FAs were demoted, and new hires were also let go. OTOH, this could just be for the simple reason that the plane is new and that most of these are actually training flights. But it was really peculiar seeing a Line Administrator serving passengers and making announcements. It seems like a downgrade.

CONTINUED BELOW

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Last edited by hikouki; 01-13-2010 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 01-13-2010, 12:18 AM   #4
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

ARRIVAL IN HKG
Skies over HK were cloudy and landing was really bumpy. We pulled in at Gate 17.


A KA 333 beside us


The QF 744 pushed back as soon as we cleared off its path.


There was a rush to deplane. Holidaymakers were so excited!
 border=

Legroom view of economy:


You could stand with your luggage on the legroom area of the business seats and still have space for someone to walk towards the window seat. You could see this guy doing just that. Seat pitch has to be at least 10 kilometers.


The arrivals corridor offers a nice view outside.




With more flights these days, HK International is getting really crowded. This time, flights have to share luggage claim carousels. Some carousels have three or four flights listed under. And handling is a bit rough. I’ve had torn handles and cracked wheels the past two years coming to HK. I’ve never had these traveling elsewhere!


We were picked up at the airport by our business friends and driven to Sha Tin for a business lunch at Lung Wah Hotel Restaurant. [Luck #4] It was famous for its fried pigeon (vegetarians beware!)


After a short meeting down at ffice:smarttags" />Canton Road, we proceeded to the Royal Plaza Hotel in Mongkok.

[Luck #5] We were booked at an executive suite, which was actually two regular rooms made into one, hence the two toilets.




CONTINUED BELOW
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Old 01-13-2010, 12:26 AM   #5
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Our meeting the following day wasn’t to take place until late in the afternoon, so we decided to eat an early lunch at Lin Heung – made (in)famous by the great Anthony Bourdain. No reservations required.
fficeffice" />

Actually, you just sit on any vacant chair and serve yourself. This place is really crazy. But the quality is top-notch and the price is really low. I heard from the locals this is one of the most famous traditional eateries in HKG.


Dim sum carts roll out of the kitchen and as soon as they do, people crowd around to take whatever they like from the carts even before the lady could push the trolley around the restaurant! We were sitting on one side of the restaurant and most dim sum baskets had run out when the carts reached our side.


[Luck #6] Har Gau at last! (translucent dumpling wrapper filled with crisp fragrant prawns).


Other items we ate during the rest of our stay included the following:

Roast Meat at Ti Hing, Mongkok:


Congee:


And claypot rice.


Our trip had ended too soon. Three days will never be enough.

CONTINUED BELOW
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Old 01-13-2010, 12:32 AM   #6
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

RETURN JOURNEY

Check-in counters at Kowloon Station:
fficeffice" />

Cabin of the Airport Express


We alighted at Terminal 2 as this building has more dining options. And it is definitely much less crowded than T1., and much more beautiful, too.


In fact, the immigration lanes were quite empty and we were waiting for the underground tram in less than five minutes.


PAL usually parks at gates 15 through 18, but it seems those gates aren’t available today and we were assigned gate 22. It was raining outside and the windows did not offer good views.

To my surprise, PAL is using the 77W again on this flight!!! [Luck #7] On booking and until the day prior to our departure, our assigned aircraft was one of the reconfigured 744s. January 9 was supposed to be the last day of the 77W on the MNL-HKG runs. But it seems they postponed it to January 12, hence this is the last time RP-C7777 is operating any HKG route until RP-C7776, the second GECAS plane, arrives later this month. Luck struck a seventh time!


Would anyone know what kind of tractor this is? It has a crab-claw-like contraption at its rear-end. Definitely not the usual tractor or a GoldHofer.

The North Satellite Concourse is now in use mainly for Mainland narrow-body flights. Only busses could be used to access the NST as installing a tram could be quite costly.


Peephole through business class on takeoff and landing.


This flight was jam-packed with passengers connecting from mainland China.

CONTINUED BELOW
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Old 01-13-2010, 12:43 AM   #7
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

FLIGHT INFORMATIONfficeffice" />

Airline: Philippine Airlines

Flight No.: PR 307

Routing: Hong Kong to ffice:smarttags" border="0" alt="" />Manila
Scheduled Departure Time: 18:00H
Actual Departure Time 17:57 (Pushback)
Scheduled Arrival Time: 20:05
Actual Arrival Time: 19:47 (Touchdown)
Equipment: Boeing 777-36NER
Registration: RP-C7777
Notes: same aircraft as on the outbound; RP-C7777 had been swapped instead of the refurbished 744.

It was mostly dark outside during the flight. Well, a nice view of the sunset could be had on the other side of the aircraft.





The meal was terrible. Chicken was too sweet. Rice was nice and fluffy though. Could have been jasmine rice.


The obligatory pose.


I know the model and the vehicle are not exactly the same but this is close enough. I bought this from one of the hobby shops. It would be April until they introduce this model on their inflight catalog.




Swivel cupholder. Nice contraption.


The disabled toilet was really very roomy.


Nice floor finish.


CONTINUED BELOW

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Old 01-13-2010, 12:43 AM   #8
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Front-most economy section.


Great legroom.


Nice footrest.


Recline on this seat feels much more than the standard economy seat. Or maybe because the seat cushion pans out with the back rest? At any rate, I felt it has the same recline as THAI’s premium economy (on the A345) which is also the exact same seat on EVA’s Deluxe (on the 77W).


If you like a view outside, avoid rows 33 and 36. I believe they are the only rows in economy without a window. Avoid it like a plague! Although row 33 has half a window when reclined. Row 36 is isolated.


CONCLUSION
PAL has truly come a long way. Asia’s first airline has weathered plenty of storms. Years of being at the mercy of corrupt government officials, not to mention the First Lady with more than 200 pairs of shoes, and the endless labor disputes have plunged it into bankruptcy. But it survived. Just when everything was all rosy again, it is back on survival mode, trying to earn a profit amidst the global downturn and rising fuel prices.

Cat II downgrade is still there but the government is doing what it can (should) albeit at a snail’s pace. Hopefully, the A340-300 will land in San Diego next year and LAX will be up to twice daily. A VLA (A388 or 748i) order to replace the 744s being retired in 2015 hasn't been placed.

New aircraft are scheduled to arrive and some of the existing ones have been refurbished. Their product has come a long way. AVOD is installed in both cl***** albeit a bit limited. There was great debate a short time ago about why PAL removed first class. Well, demand simply isn’t there! First reportedly is full of courtesy upgrades from Mabuhay Class and the latter in turn get its share of upgrades from economy. The lie-flats are a generation or two behind the lead product in a similar class but hey, they are only matching it with the existing market. PAL’s clients are mostly O&D travelers looking for the cheapest fares. Not exactly the business travelers with fat bank accounts.

I would definitely fly on their 77W again, but I would really think twice sitting on any ten-abreast 777 on a longhaul flight. I fit in with hip-room to spare, but SQ and TG’s configuration is MUCH more spacious and comfortable. Aisles on RP-C7777 were quite tight, too. The new IFE is much better than before (no PTV), but even those seem to be lacking in terms of options. Service is warm, as always and the mileage program is quite generous and useful. Amenities have been really watered-down but you don’t really miss it on such a short flight.

THANKS FOR READING!

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Old 01-13-2010, 01:08 AM   #9
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Nice report and pictures .. hehe, it made me feel as if I was in the trip too!! I like the 773ER you went on (2 months old!?!? WOW), I'd probably never want to get off that bauty if I was you...lol 2 hours on that thing is tooooooooooo short!!!
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Old 01-13-2010, 05:26 AM   #10
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Thanks for the exclusive flight report on the PR300/307 run.
I have been on this flight back but my flights were operated by either a really tired 744, a nice touch and refreshing when they put us on PR319 flight with a A319.

What a nice series of food from HKG. FOODPORN! :-)
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Old 01-13-2010, 05:36 AM   #11
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

nice report. i hope they would also use the 777 for their MNL-CEB or MNL-DVO routes. do you know if lil's is already selling herpa PR777s? thanks
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:59 AM   #12
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Wings900 Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

On topic: Nice report, very detailed and very good pics. Its nice to see PAL receiving new aircraft with improved interiors. Im sure this is the start of some good expansion from PAL, subject to the US authorities regarding the issue you mentioned. Hopefully it will be resolved soon.

Im glad you had a nice trip in HK, and enjoyed some of our fantastic local foods. It's impressive you know so much about cantonese food!

Side note: I was taken back by your continuous comments on how unfriendly CX staff are! Despite CX being my favourite airline, it is Hong Kong's flag carrier, and I believe CX crew display the attitiude of Hong Kongers, which is good and efficient service. I was on a CX flight just last week on 6th Jan, and I was served by a very pleasant crew, who seemed to be very good at telling what languages people were speaking, frequently switiching between Cantonese and English. Prior to take off, the pax sitting next to me was aksed very politely to kindly switch their music off and crew were helpful in storing bags in over head lockers as the flight was very full.

I think CX crew perhaps sometimes concentrate too much on efficiency, maybe by doing things too fast, but I do believe they are friendly and kind to passengers. This is the main ethos of CX company policy, service with a smile. Perhaps you had a bad experience on your last CX flight, sorry to hear that! I shall stop ranting on about CX now, but one thing worth mentioning is that we have a lot of Filipina crew members and there is often at least one on most flights, along with many Indian crew, which together with the Cantonese crew, in my opinon provide a very efficient and friendly service!

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Old 01-13-2010, 09:51 PM   #13
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Awesome pictures and very nice report ! I hope the PAL 777-300ER 1/600 new version, will be available soon, I saw 2 PAL 777 1/500 in a local hobby shop here in Makati, but I don't have intentions to buy it because of its incorrect sheme.
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:55 PM   #14
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

Nice report. Same choices on the refurbised 744. Had a great time playing the Trivia Tournament with several co-passengers which kept me busy for sometime.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hikouki View Post
The IFE was turned on during cruise. It was a big disappointment. The choices are VERY limited!!! I’m not sure it is the same case on the refurbished 744s.

This is all that you can watch,


Play,

And listen to.

 border=

And here is another GREAT disappointment. The meal trays have SHRUNK!!! Whatever happened to the warm bread rolls with butter and jam? How about the fresh morning fruit? Yikes, even the plastic cutlery has been downgraded to an inferior quality.


On the other hand, this is cost-cutting twice over. Once because of the recession, and twice because of EconoLight. The latter is a “low-cost” product that PAL introduced to compete with 5J. Previously, passengers were only given 15kg baggage allowance, and NO food. Now they receive food. So homogenizing meals to substandard allows them to lower costs for everyone. Yikes!!! Well, at least they have not gone the way of MAS with their lunchboxes.

My dad took the beef option above and I got the dumplings:


My seat is directly above the wingroot. No worries, I’m wearing clean underwear, and I’m not from Nigeria. I was worried this seat does not have a good view outside. [Luck #3] It turns out that the plugged areas are only on rows 33 and 36.


Photo at cruise:


One peculiar thing about this flight (and on my return) was that the purser was wearing a barong (traditional Filipino shirt for men), instead of the usual western-style coat. AFAIK, only Line Administrators/ Check Pursers wear the said uniform at PAL. Standard pursers wear the coat and tie uniform. It could be a result of the recent retrenchment so the airline could cut costs. I heard many of the FAs were demoted, and new hires were also let go. OTOH, this could just be for the simple reason that the plane is new and that most of these are actually training flights. But it was really peculiar seeing a Line Administrator serving passengers and making announcements. It seems like a downgrade.

CONTINUED BELOW

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Old 01-22-2010, 04:59 AM   #15
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Re: [Trip Report] Lucky (Triple) Seven: MNL-HKG on Philippine Airlines

lovely report on the PAL 77W, Hikouki. Glad you ride on it as you anticipated since PAL announced to have 77W in their fleet.

Btw, welcome back to the forum!!
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