On my recent trip to Boracay, I flew with Philippine Airlines (PAL) as Webjet had a package deal where you can purchase your flights and four nights’ accommodation for about $1,700 twin share. As a simple outline of our travel, we flew to Manila first and then took a connecting flight to Boracay. The return trip was the same in reverse. Below is a true account of my personal experience flying with this specific airline.
Sydney to Manila
I was a little worried about our flights being delayed as I had recently read that PAL flights had a 39% (approx.) chance of being delayed. Luckily for us, the 6am flight was on time. We were allowed to check in online 24 hours prior to take off. You just have to go to the PAL website and head to their check-in page. To my dismay, our seats were already pre-assigned on the 8 hour flight to Manila – and it was a full flight. We were seated in the middle section, in the two middle seats within the four seater. Thankfully, my travelling companion kept checking the check-in page throughout the day and two seats by the window opened up. We quickly reserved those. You really do want to check in as soon as it is available to get seats you prefer and to skip the queue at the airport. We were able to check in our baggage in a matter of about five minutes whereas our friends, who didn’t check in prior, had to spend about 20 minutes doing so at the airport.
Boarding time was 1 hour prior to take off. We had arrived at the airport 2.5 hours early so we had plenty of time to cruise to our gate – getting Macca’s along the way. The first thing I noticed when walking onto the plane was that it was old, very old. I had checked Seat Guru beforehand and it told me that there were no TV’s behind the seats like usual so, on advice by a friend, I downloaded TV shows and movies off Netflix the night before. I’m pretty sure this plane was from the 70’s as that is what the décor is reminiscent of. Walking past First Class and Business, the seats were covered in light brown material, no TV either, but tons of leg room and sitting space. I think the fact that they don’t have any form of entertainment is reason enough not to waste your money on anything other than economy. The seats do not have any USB port to charge your phone so make sure you have your portable charger with you.
Shortly after the flight took off, the flight attendants forced all the window shades shut. I believe this was to assist with sleeping but I was kind of crushed I wasn’t allowed to stare out the window into the beautifully set clouds for any longer than 10 minutes. For food, I chose the pork adobo, a Filipino dish. It tasted great – only thing was that there was about an inch of fat on each piece of pork that I ended up cutting off. This may be traditional to Filipinos but quite a bit too heavy for breakfast.
Arriving in Manila
We arrived in the Manila international airport (NAIA) and were required to pick up our bags from the carousel, pass it onto the designated attendant next to the carousel who tagged our bags with a sign that showed it was transferring to Boracay, and then the attendant put it back on the carousel so the bags could head back out. This was very confusing and the other way I knew that had to be done was because my friends had experienced this before. So make sure you ask for help if you need it otherwise your bags may go missing.
Once that was done, we had to catch a shuttle bus to travel to the domestic airport. This place was pretty well hidden, so make sure to ask for directions.
Again, the flight to Boracay was on time. Once landing in Caticlan Airport, we were shuttled from the tarmac to the actual airport hub where we were picked up by our hotel-sourced shuttle bus to be dropped off at the port where we would be taken to the island on boat.
Boracay to Manila
This flight takes about 55 minutes, but it really feels like 30 as the descent announcement comes shortly after the seat belt light is turned off. We got a light snack on this short flight but it may be inconsistent as we had other friends travelling the same airline at a different time and they received nothing.
Stopover in Manila
There is not much to do here at all. There are a few shops to buy perfume or cosmetics and 3 food stalls, but that is pretty much it. Lucky for us, we were now travelling with quite a big group so we kept ourselves entertained.
Manila to Sydney
Much to our surprise, our final flight was on time too. This flight left Manila at 3pm local time. The aircraft was an A340-300 (343) v2 and we were seated on seats 35D and 35E. I would not recommend you choose any seats towards the back of the cabin as food tends to run out before it gets to you meaning you don’t get a choice in what you get to eat. The attendants also get a bit messy and lazy by the time they get to you so food trays are hastily passed over to you while they look away to do something else.
I was unfortunate enough to have sauce spilt all over my blanket by the person sitting beside me so I asked a passing attendant to grab me a new one. She replied with a nod and smile. About an hour later, I was still blanket-less with the quarter-eaten food tray still sitting in front of me. I thought it was due to the turbulence that they were not collecting our trays however, I noticed that other tray around me had been collected but for the people in the last two rows, our trays remained. I quickly grabbed another passing attendant and gave him the trays and asked him for a blanket. Another hour or so passed and still nothing so I rang the service bell. Another 2 hours passed and finally an attendant came over and asked what I needed. I, yet again, asked for a blanket and she got one to me in less than 5 minutes.
The rest of the flight was fine as I binge watched Stranger Things on Netflix and by the time the season finished, we only had about an hour and a half til we arrived in Sydney. Another option, if you did not bring any entertainment, is to download their PAL app which allows you to connect to their wifi, only to view their shows and movies on file. My friends did this and told me it was alright however, the videos are heavily censored so a lot of scenes that may be deemed ‘offensive’ to different cultures are edited out.
If I had to the option to do the flights over again, I would most likely choose Qantas for the Sydney – Manila flights, you just must be willing to fork out a few extra hundred dollars. But this package was good for convenience at the time of booking.
I hope this review has helped you. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!