Plane Ticket To New York From Philippines – Katherine Fan is a former travel reporter for The Points Guy, covering everything from personal finance to travel and aviation.
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Plane Ticket To New York From Philippines
Editor-in-chief Alberto Riva reviewed the same airline in business class. The airline of the Philippines is ICAO PAL — a fitting name for one of the friendliest countries I’ve been to. The in-flight experience, as you’ll see, was solid, but the near-total disappointment of being on time, coupled with the sheer amount of chaos surrounding the airport experience, left a bittersweet impression.
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[tpg_rating tpg-rating-score=”74″ ground-experience=”4″ cabin-seat=”18″ amens-ife=”13″ food-bev=”17″ service=”22″ pros=”Comfortable seats, impeccable service, unique food and great IFE screens.” cons=”Chaotic airport experience and late departure, toilet traffic jam, bad headphones.” /]
Since Philippine Airlines is not affiliated with any major airline, I did not have the option to book the award flight directly through the airline or other partner carriers. (I don’t have enough miles on either All Nippon Airways or Etihad, the only airline partners.) If I wanted to pay for this flight with points, the Chase portal would allow me to use the Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire. Reservations at a price of 1.5 cents per piece.
However, I decided to save my points and pay for the flight in cash instead, earning 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar charged to my Sapphire Reserve. The flight cost me $1,037 and earned me 3,112 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is worth $62.25 at TPG’s current valuations.
I could credit my earned miles to the airline’s proprietary loyalty program Mabuhay Miles or ANA or Etihad. Not sure I would be flying Philippine Airlines anytime soon, I credited my miles to Etihad. My “Economy Value” ticket earned 75% mileage, totaling 6,380 miles, according to the billing chart.
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As soon as my ticket was booked, I was able to log into the Philippines Airlines website and manage my booking. Seat selection was free, but limited to about 40% of the available cabins on the bus. “Preferred seats” ranged from $12 to $100, with a mid-range of $50 for aisle seats a little more toward the middle.
I chose a free seat towards the very tail of the plane: 64H. Later, when I checked in, I intended to look for a better, free seat, but all seats except the middle row were occupied by the time I checked in, about 12 hours before the flight.
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I’ll say it right up front: I’m not a fan of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL). When I first landed at MNL from Taipei (TSA), it took me over 45 minutes to go through immigration. The crowded, chaotic free time with no special lines would have lasted another 20 minutes if the clerk had not marked me for a line reserved for flight crews and diplomats.
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Leaving the country 30 hours later was an even more painful process. My taxi driver dropped me off at Terminal 3 instead of Terminal 2. The terminals at MNL did not connect. The airport had buses that offered the only free connection between all four terminals, supposedly every 15 minutes, but even the airport’s website warned that times depended on traffic. This meant I needed another taxi to help me travel the 4 miles between the terminals.
When I finally got to Terminal 2, I found it to be just as chaotic and crowded as Terminal 3. The line to get through the security scanning terminal door was several rows deep and snaking back and forth. I waited in line for about 10 minutes before I got to the building. I couldn’t tell if the security measures were tightened due to the recent unrest in other regions or if this was simply the standard for going out of Manila.
Inside the airport, the madness was even worse. With several long-haul flights departing Manila for New York, San Francisco and Guam around the same time, the markings were almost impossible to see. I ended up slipping into line and hoping for the best. After a minute or two, some friendly staff members walked by and directed me to the correct line.
When I actually got in the right line, it took me about 15 minutes to get from my place in line to my boarding pass in hand.
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After a few more minutes, I finally made it through security and immigration…only to be faced with more
A series of security checks at the gate to board our aircraft. This was much less invasive and involved document review. Despite this, the line was more than four dozen people long 30 minutes before boarding.
Everywhere I looked there were random rows and rows of people. As for actual gate seating, there seemed to be quite a few available.
I usually grab a small snack at the airport to pick me up before long flights, so I wandered to the other end of the building and tried to see what was available. Unfortunately, there were only a few small kiosks serving pastries, coffee, and Middle Eastern food, complementing the small stalls that offered local snacks, western cosmetics, and other trinkets.
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While waiting in another line to order food at a Middle Eastern kiosk, I was informed that the store was completely out of rice and could only offer me one of two protein wraps. As I watched them prepare my food, I couldn’t help but notice that the vegetables they had available—onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes—were almost completely sold out. Considering it was only 8:30pm and a few flights had yet to take off, this store didn’t seem ready for business.
Despite the general chaos of the airport, each of the elderly passengers in wheelchairs seemed to have at least one dedicated employee near the gate, returning from time to time to check on them.
We finally boarded about five minutes late. As I suspected, the flight didn’t actually look full, and the flight attendants allowed me to move one row back to 65H, to the back seat, which was completely empty. (But later another passenger was sitting by the window.) Just then the captain came on the intercom and said we were waiting for some passengers stuck in the immigration line.
The last few passengers eventually boarded the plane, and we left the gate an hour late. There were still more than 25 empty seats in the back cabin.
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Going through (and into) Manila Terminal 2 was one of the most sketchy boarding experiences of the last decade. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the helpful attitude of airport employees around the world.
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Everything on this Airbus A350, registration RP-C3504, looked shiny and new, despite the fact that this aircraft did not have AC outlets in economy class. It was delivered to PAL in July 2018, so it was less than half a year old when I drove it.
The beautiful, oversized screens were luxurious for the coach class, prominently displaying the row letter and seats in the upper left corner, making it easy to find the right seat when walking up and down the dark aisles.
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Each screen was tilted forward and had a powered USB port and a single audio jack for headphones. There was no dedicated remote, but the touchscreens were responsive and intuitive (passed the Dorsey test), with controls for volume, screen brightness, ceiling light, call button and power.
I found the toilets adequate, with the toilet in the rear galley being larger and more comfortable than those on the sides of the center cabin.
There were paper towel wipes and small bottles of face and body lotion in the bathrooms, although the bottles in both restrooms I checked had lost their small caps when I got there.
I enjoyed the colorful lighting in the cabin that appeared at special moments, such as during meals, when the cabin changed from night to fake daylight.
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I loved that Philippine Airlines still hands out utensils and paper menus to passengers on the coach, just like most airlines did 10 or 20 years ago. Shortly after takeoff, flight attendants walked up and down the aisles handing out small, blue, plastic-wrapped bags with traditional tribal designs that contained socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush with a plastic cover, and toothpaste. Everything was of basic quality, and the gesture was more than I expected.
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