Hello bitLanding friends. Awesome bitLander member jikZ is here again to write another awesome post. However, unlike my usual niche of writing movie reviews or blogging about my massive toy collection, in this post I will be writing about something that I love doing but rarely do so – and that is flying for an awesome vacation to the land of the free and home of the brave: USA.
In this blog, I will also share my most recent experience of going to the US by flying PAL (Philippine Airlines). Of course, with this blog, I will also include my review and feedback with PAL.
Photo of things that I brought when I went to the US
I am pretty sure that a lot of Filipinos would want to go to the US as much as they want because of the many beautiful places to visit and great things to do in the country. Unfortunately, due to different constraints, some Filipinos couldn't visit the US as often as they can. Some of the constraints that I am referring to may include the VISA requirement, financial aspect, employment vacation leave package, and long travel time.
2-Month VL down to 15-Days
In my case, vacationing to the US is a rare occurrence because it is usually hindered by my career responsibilities. Although I am allowed to file for a two month vacation (yes I am that awesome), the thing is, I just couldn't. My role involves making critical decisions that are revenue impacting. On top of this, a vacation that long means that I have to ensure that all tasks and deliverables are properly cascaded - otherwise my one downs and members will bug me to no end about inquiries and what nots. So to ensure that i still have a job when I get back home and that everything is running smoothly, it is quite impossible for me to file for a very long vacation.
That being said, my most recent vacation to the US is only for 15 days. I know some readers might be wondering that the duration is too short – yes that is true (some of my offline connections such as friends and colleagues actually have the same sentiments). Unfortunately, it is what it is. In fact, that 15 day leave already includes the travel time.
South East Asia to USA – a long haul flight
Speaking of travel time, flying from Manila Philippines to USA is what many will call or consider as a long haul flight. Interestingly, the description of long haul depends on the perspective of the person or the airline company. For instance, American Airlines (and other US airline companies) already considers flights over 3,000 miles as long haul flights. On the other hand, European airline companies and air organizations / body only considers flight distances of more than 4,000 miles as long haul flights.
Of course, long haul flights may also depend on the person. Some people considers flight times of over 10 hours as long haul flights – while others only describe their flight as long haul when it passes over large bodies of water (such as the Pacific ocean, Atlantic ocean, etc…)
Personally, I consider any international flights or any flights outside the Southeast Asian region as long haul flights. Since flying from Manila to US (and vice versa) has an average of more than 10 hours, that is what many will call as a long haul flight.
Now that we a better view and understanding of what a long haul flight is, we will now drill down further the travel time from Manila to USA and vice versa.
As can be seen on the photo of our air itinerary below, our flight travel time from Manila (MNL) to Los Angeles (LAX) is 13 hours and 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the flight back home from San Francisco (SFO) to Manila (MNL) was an hour longer – fourteen hours and thirty minutes (the return trip is actually longer because of delays, but I will discuss this later).
Booking Information Sent on Email
Photo of our air itinerary
Aside from travel time, there are other pertinent information that are included in the booking information sent in the email. These important aspects are discussed individually below.
1. Ticket Cost
The above screenshot shows the ticket fare breakdown as well as the grand total of fees to be paid for the travel. When you go to the PAL website to book a flight, it usually indicates there the total price of the ticket (the grand total). Naturally, inquiring minds would want to know how did the price was summed up to that amount – this is the reason why the breakdown of prices is included on the booking confirmation information sent on the email that the customer provided.
2. Fare Rules
The Fare Rules section contains information that covers various guidelines about the internatoinal flight. Some of this may include Fare Family Benefits, minimum and maximum stay, surcharges, blackout dates, penalties, etc...
One important guidelines worth mentioning are allowable baggage allowance. For our international flight, we are allowed two free check in luggage by PAL. These are usually referred to as FBA (Free Baggage Allowance) and For the check in ones, each must not exceed 50 lbs. Of course, the allowable weight may have change as of this posting so be sure to check the booking information sent to you in your email.
Let us now go to the juicy part of this post – starting with the actual pre-flight with PAL (FYI please that I am already a long time flyer of Philippine Airlines and below is a photo of my membership card)
1. Constant Reminder to the Customer
When it comes to informing us with our flight, Philippine Airlines did a great job of constantly reminding us about important items of things to be done. The reminder includes web checking 24 hour before the flight, the booking reference, useful apps, etc...
2. Important Updates
Aside from the constant reminder, the airplane company PAL also did a great job of sending out important emails. In a way, this serves as a great storage and repository. This basically means that since it is in the email, just star it and you'll quickly know where to pull it in case you need it.
It also serves as a good back up in case the print outs of important documents are misplaced or worst case – lost.
3. At the Terminal
Similar with the above, I will also have to give high ratings on this one – while at the airport's terminal. People at the Terminal (NAIA Terminal 2) are helpful and accommodating. Upon arrival and going to the designated gate, we didn't felt any form of stress or pressure.
The departure day may have also been a factor as it was a Sunday. Since Sunday is somewhat of a solemn day for Christians, this might explain why people are extra food on that day
Actual Flight Experience
As mentioned, I am not a newbie in the world of traveling outside the Philippines and have visited the US for a couple of times already. Because of such, I am already aware of some things to do during long haul flights. For instance, to ensure that I would be able to sleep during the trip, I sleep very little on the night prior the flight. I also fully charge all my gadgets to ensure that I wouldn't be bored for the duration of the flight.
However for this flight, the plane that we must have boarded must have been relatively new because each seat has a dedicated touch screen device for every passenger. The device is equipped with an entertainment package that varies from music files to different movie genre. Needless to say, with such an in-flight entertainment that is readily available for customers, it would be quite hard to sleep (come to think of it, I only slept for about two hours during the trip).
To top off the entertainment package, there is a dedicated USB slot that can be used to charge compatible devices (in this case, standard Android handheld gadgets).
At this point, let us talk about airline foods. I am pretty sure that readers who frequently travels are aware that airplane foods are not that good. In fact, popular global chef Gordon Ramsay even divulged some little not so good facts about foods served in airplanes. This might also explain why some passengers prefers to bring their own food during international flights.
Anyway, a common practice that I have been observing during international flights is eating very small to nothing before the trip. I always believe in the saying that for a hungry person, every food is delicious. So far, this mindset has never failed me because I was able to go finish every meal that was served during the long flight.
Although I cannot truly say if the foods are bad, but it is not exactly five star quality either.
3. Flight Attendant Service
Lastly, let us discuss about the quality of service provided by the flight attendants. Sad to say, the service is not that exceptional – but it wasn't horrible either. It is actually hard to put in words and might be best described by examples. One scenario is when I asked for water. Am not sure if the stewardess I talked to was very busy or have totally forgotten about it, so I asked another attendant about it. On the plus side, the attendants are always smiling any gives out the ambiance of being always approachable.
As can be noticed, this blog is about my flight to USA from Manila via PAL (Philippine Airlines). I also used Philippine Airlines when flying back home and have used Delta Airlines when going to San Francisco from Los Angeles.
Speaking of Delta Airlines, directly below is a photo of my Delta membership card and the one beneath is an interesting Querlo chat about Delta. Be sure to check the Querlo Delta chat and feel free to leave a comment.