In my previous post, we saw what it’s like to fly from Manila to Seoul with Philippine Airlines. Now let’s have a look at their performance on another Korean route, departing from Busan and heading back to Manila.
Note: Schedule/route information, equipment type, and other details are accurate only for the specific flight reviewed here. This information may not necessarily apply to previous or future flights, even by the same airline under the same route and flight number.
This report covers the return leg (PUS-MNL) of a MNL-ICN/PUS-MNL open-jaw journey. You can read my review of the outbound leg (MNL-ICN) here.
Airline and flight number : Philippine Airlines (PR) 419
Route : Busan, South Korea (IATA code: PUS) to Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL)
Date : Tuesday, 06 June 2017
Scheduled departure time : 2100 (actual 2122)
Scheduled arrival time : 2345 (actual 0006 +1)
EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : A321-200
Manufacturer : Airbus
Passenger capacity : 199 seats in a two-class layout, consisting of 12 business and 187 economy (including 18 premium economy)
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site / SeatGuru
Travel class flown : Economy
PR419 departed from the international terminal of Busan’s Gimhae International Airport (PUS).
I don’t normally write separate posts just for airports, preferring to fold them into flight reports. That said, PUS was a fairly small place and I had loads of time to kill before my flight, so I managed to gather enough pictures to give it a standalone treatment. Click here to read my full review covering Gimhae’s international terminal.
For this post, let’s limit ourselves to a brief overview of what went on that evening. Check-in began about 2.5 hours before our scheduled departure, unlike in MNL where I was allowed to complete the process about 3-4 hours ahead. The passenger traffic was fairly smooth through security and immigration. Boarding was somewhat behind schedule, commencing just minutes prior to our slated 2100 take-off, and in the end we left PUS over 20 minutes late.
Our aircraft was berthed at a spot on the tarmac some distance away from the terminal, so we were bussed to the site…
…and boarded using old-fashioned stairs rather than the usual aerobridge. Fortunately, the weather was more or less cooperative at the time – nothing more than a breezy drizzle – and the open-sided stairs gave me a great view of the aircraft’s exterior.
Here’s a full-length shot of our bird, taken after our arrival in Manila.
My Budget Economy ticket came with the standard checked luggage allowance of 20 kg each way. As for carry-ons, the rules permitted me one main item of no more than 7 kg, along with two additional small items. For the fine print and other details, read the guidelines on PR’s website here.
I wasn’t able to take proper pictures of the cabin interior on this flight. Thankfully, our Airbus A321-200 was pretty much identical to the birds I’d flown in a few years ago on PR’s MNL-NRT-MNL route, so you can refer to my description and photos of the seats in the two posts I wrote about that experience. Click here to read my outbound flight report (MNL-NRT), during which I was seated in Business Class; click here for the return flight report (NRT-MNL), when I was seated further back in Economy.
As a quick point of reference, let’s have a look at some of the pictures I took on those earlier trips. The following images show PR’s A321-200 Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class seats, respectively.
On this occasion, I was travelling both ways as an Economy Class passenger. No complaints from me about either the legroom or the seat width, although I should point out that I’m not a particularly large fellow. Taller or wider folk may find it a bit of a squeeze, and might need to consider investing in exit row seats or a class upgrade.
My seat was 43K, on the same side of the plane and a few rows ahead of where I’d been seated during the outbound flight. Along with 43A on the other side, this was pretty much as close to the front as I could get in the Economy Class section (for a window seat, at any rate) without having to pay more for the exit row bordering the Premium Economy zone.
On a not-particularly-long flight of just four hours’ duration – and during a time when I’d really rather be sleeping – I wouldn’t expect or demand much in the way of onboard entertainment. That said, the IFE infrastructure on this particular PR aeroplane leaves so much to be desired that I feel a small rant is warranted.
The A321-200 was one of several ordered under PR’s former leadership, who had rather stupidly decided to “innovate” by dispensing with traditional IFE and moving towards an online system whereby content would be streamed into users’ own devices. As expected, the decision met with a lot of criticism, including from myself. After all, who wants to hold a device aloft at eye level for an entire trip or during mealtimes, and who’d want to go through the trouble of installing PR’s media player app before being able to access the stream?
For the record, I did try PR’s wireless IFE system on a different flight, and all I got for the trouble was a pathetic handful of ancient or unheard-of films (with a few episodes of TV series thrown in). Thanks, but no thanks.
Fortunately, the new management are shifting back to the tried-and-true hard-wired IFE model – beginning this year with some of their A330 aircraft – so one hopes that this dismal state of affairs will be addressed at some point. Assuming that PR’s short and medium-haul fleet won’t get the desired upgrades anytime soon, I’d suggest at least one immediate improvement: seat-back mounts or brackets (preferably equipped with charging ports) that can securely hold passengers’ tablets or smartphones. That would help alleviate the inconvenience and strain of trying to keep one’s device in the right viewing position, especially when one’s hands and the tray table would otherwise be occupied (whilst consuming a meal, for example).
As for reading material, the usual in-flight magazine was supplied in every seat pocket. I didn’t ask for a newspaper, but I’m fairly certain that one would have been made available if requested.
CATERING AND SERVICE
In line with expectations, the Economy Class menu was limited to a two-dish choice between chicken (or was it fish?) and beef. I’d take red meat over white almost any day, so beef it was.
The meal as served…
…and with the lid taken off the main course. I’d also been given my choice of beverage by this point, which explains the cup of apple juice in the corner. (There was a reasonably wide selection on offer, including alcoholic drinks for those who cared for something stronger.)
Simple, but satisfying. The beef was thinly sliced and perfectly cooked, and I was pleasantly surprised at the portion size (it’s not obvious from the picture but there was more meat hiding underneath the veggies).
Neither of the two main choices was a proper Korean dish, though PR were savvy enough to add a route-appropriate touch to what would otherwise have been an ordinary in-flight meal. In addition to the usual items (a main course, bread and butter, sweet treats for dessert), the tray’s contents included both a small portion of kimchi and a tube of gochujang. Much appreciated on both counts, as I love having a bit of spice in my food.
Note that the kimchi on this flight was served in a sealed pouch, whilst the same side dish was presented in one of the tray’s small bowls during my outbound flight. Other than that, I didn’t detect any perceptible difference in quality or taste.
Having finished my meal, and with no proper IFE to keep me awake, I decided to catch a bit of sleep. Pillows and blankets wrapped in plastic had been laid on each seat prior to boarding. (This contrasts with my outbound MNL-ICN flight, where only pillows had been set out in advance and the blankets were distributed later.)
Now then, a few words on the onboard service. PR’s hard product (particularly the seats and IFE) might not be on par with its full-service airline peers, but the performance of their cabin crew has been consistently good across the several times I’ve flown with them on different Japan and Korea routes. Granted, I’m not usually a demanding passenger so my interactions with in-flight personnel tend to be very limited, though I can say in all honesty that they’ve never given me any cause for complaint – even though the airline they work for has done so on various occasions.
Apart from the (relatively small) delays on both departure and arrival, I can’t really fault PR for anything on this flight. Sure, the lack of a proper IFE system was a disappointment, but it wasn’t really required on a journey of this length, and in any case I spent most of our time in the air either eating or sleeping.
Shortcomings in the hard product notwithstanding, the aeroplane itself appeared to be quite new and well maintained.
All things considered, I’d rate myself a happy customer. If the prices and schedules are right, I’d gladly fly with PR again on this route.