I had originally booked myself into economy class for my flight to Japan, but a reasonably priced over-the-counter, one-way upgrade offer at check-in brought me back into the forward cabin – and, before the flight, into Philippine Airlines’ newly renovated lounge.
Date of visit : 01 February 2014
Location : Terminal 2, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), Manila, Philippines
Airline : Philippine Airlines (PR)
Related flight : PR 428 (MNL-NRT)
Travel class : Business
The Mabuhay Lounge is located smack in the middle of MNL’s Terminal 2 (PR’s exclusive preserve), conveniently located for our assigned gate but set back quite some way from the edge of the building – which meant that it had no views to speak of. A pity, as airline lounges are often noted for their sweeping vistas of the tarmac, but not in itself a deal-killer.
Onwards then. Once you’ve found your way to the centre of the terminal – right up against the sealed boundary between the international and domestic zones – a short walk down a glass-walled corridor leads to the reception desk.
Right, let’s get ourselves in there.
The lounge is divided into three distinct seating areas. The first one, just past reception and the washrooms, is set up as a mini-theatre.
Leather upholstery, matching footstools, side tables for snacks, and a high-def TV. Not a bad place to stretch out for a bit and relax.
Not sure if we’re allowed to switch channels (it was set to HBO at the time); I imagine most of those in the room were too polite to attempt it in case someone was actually enjoying the current selection.
Further on is the dining area, a restaurant-like setting conveniently located next to the buffet counters (more on those later).
And at the very end of the lounge is a sedately decorated preserve of (relative) silence, perfect for those who need to get some work done.
A couple of well-stocked fridges in this last section means that one needn’t wander off into the dining area to fetch a cold beverage.
There are windows along the wall in all three areas but they’re rather thickly curtained – not much point in opening them since, as we’ve noted earlier, there’s really no view to be enjoyed from here.
I left home without having breakfast, so the buffet tables were an easy first target.
Hot dishes are laid out on the left side, and judging from the bamboo trays there was even dimsum on offer (though I didn’t try them myself).
After that are two small glass-fronted refrigerators stocked with cold beverages, followed by juice dispensers and a selection of sweet treats.
Yogurt, pudding, fruit, and a selection of baked goods and sandwiches are laid out on a separate counter.
There’s also a drinks bar for hot beverages and cocktails.
Now for a hearty pre-flight breakfast.
To finish off the meal, I ladled myself a bowl of arroz caldo, the local, somewhat Hispanised version of congee.
A variety of toppings allows patrons to customise their portions. I like to keep things fairly simple, so I enhanced mine with nothing more than a generous sprinkling of minced garlic and chopped scallion.
Internet access. Wifi is available for personal devices, and there are a couple of PCs located near the mini-theatre for more substantial surfing needs.
Reading material. Racks are laid out with magazines and newspapers. I didn’t spy anything more substantial (like books), though periodicals and dailies are pretty much all that’s needed in an airline lounge – after all, travellers are probably more likely than not to tote their own thicker tomes if so desired.
Luggage storage. When I asked about where I could stash my backpack whilst wandering around the terminal, I was directed to a separate room just off the reception area with spacious shelves for passengers’ bags. Unfortunately, the place didn’t feel particularly secure as it had no locks for baggage or attendants on duty. Lockers (similar to the ones in Japan Airlines’s Haneda lounge) or a staffed counter would have been a better design choice.
Sanitary facilities. Standard toilets, nothing special. In fact, the dated marble tilework and poorly executed wallpapering gave the men’s washroom a rather cheap look. (No idea how things are in the ladies’ room, of course.) There was a shower room nearby but the door was locked; I suppose one has to ask for the key.
On the one hand, the Mabuhay Lounge clearly sits a few notches (well, more than a few notches) below the much larger and more refined offerings run by other major carriers like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. It has all the basics, but in terms of both size and quality there’s just less of everything here.
On the other hand, comparing what’s available now with what I saw when I was last here (less than two years ago), the improvement is nothing short of incredible. Back then, the lounge was a joke: tired-looking furniture, cheap decor, a limited spread of mostly cold dishes; more like a dingy office cafeteria than a premium lounge. (Another traveller wrote about his experience before the renovations – I think you’ll agree that the difference is quite significant.) For all its shortcomings, the present lounge has an air of real sophistication, and I’ve seen comments elsewhere online that suggest many users are quite impressed with the changes.
Overall, I’d say the renovation was a huge success, and probably comes close to the best that could be done given the limited space available in Terminal 2. Improvements might involve better toilet facilities and more secure baggage storage, but other than that, I was quite happy with this lounge experience.