I’ve written before of how Jetstar’s become my airline of choice when flying between Manila and various cities in Japan. (Well, when they’re available anyway. The flights aren’t daily and the routes are seasonally operated, so other carriers come into play when I travel outside those periods.) Reasonable prices are a major factor, good schedules – early arrivals coming into Japan, later departures coming back out – are another. And they’ve done a decent enough job so far that I’ll happily fly with them again, as I’ve just done on a recent holiday to Hiroshima by way of Ōsaka’s Kansai International Airport.
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 outbound leg (MNL-KIX) of a MNL-KIX-MNL round trip journey. Click here to read my post covering the return leg (KIX-MNL).
Click here to read an older report documenting a previous flight I took with the same airline on the same route.
Airline and flight number : Jetstar Asia (3K) 763
Route : Manila (IATA code: MNL) to Ōsaka-Kansai (IATA code: KIX)
Date : Saturday, 02 December 2017
Scheduled departure time : 0655
Actual departure time : 0729
Scheduled arrival time : 1135
Actual arrival time : 1140
EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : A320-200
Manufacturer : Airbus
Registration number : 9V-JSE
Passenger capacity : 180, all-economy layout
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : SeatGuru
Travel class flown : Economy
With the rush to board (and the lack of a decent vantage point), I couldn’t take a clean picture of the aeroplane we flew on. Here are two shots of the very same bird taken earlier this year.
Jetstar Asia A320-200, 9V-JSE (taken on 05-05-17).
PRICE AND FARE CLASS
The total amount we paid for the round-trip flight was PHP 23,020.15 per person, including a Starter Plus bundle upgrade. This tag is all-inclusive, save for the travel tax of PHP 1,620.00 that Filipino citizens – with certain exemptions – must pay when flying out of the country. (Most airlines, Jetstar included, don’t offer the option to pay this tax upon booking, so it’s often paid right at the airport before check-in.)
At the moment, only Economy seats are offered on Jetstar Japan flights between MNL and NRT. Two levels of fare upgrade are available, both conferring additional benefits over the basic fare: Starter Plus and the more expensive Starter Max. I went with a Plus upgrade, which came with 20 kg of checked baggage, standard seat selection, a hot meal, frequent flyer rewards (either miles or a redeemable voucher at your election), and a change fee waiver (fare differences still apply). I’ll drill into some of these benefits in more detail below, and the fine print can be consulted on the Jetstar website.
The fare isn’t the cheapest one can get from Jetstar or its competitors on this route. In fact, I’ve purchased all-inclusive tickets for less than half the sum we paid this time – under PHP 10,000.00 in some cases (see here for example). That said, the price of our ticket (whilst approaching full-service airline territory) is quite reasonable for non-discounted fares on this route, especially considering that our holiday wasn’t booked very far in advance.
With the Starter Plus fare bundle, I was entitled to a checked luggage allowance of 20 kg each way. As for carry-on bags, the rules permitted me a total of 7 kg, maximum of two items. Bear in mind that Jetstar staff tend to strictly enforce these limits at the gate (in terms of both weight and quantity), so even if your carry-on luggage passes initial inspection at the counter, you may be forced to do some creative repacking should you choose to raid the duty-free shops just before boarding. For the fine print and other details, read the guidelines on Jetstar’s website here.
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
The MNL-KIX leg of our flight departed from Terminal 1 of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA code: MNL). The smallest and oldest of MNL’s three main international terminals, T1 is regrettably typical of this airport’s ill-equipped, ill-maintained, and increasingly overtaxed infrastructure. That said, a major refurbishment completed a couple of years ago has made the experience somewhat more pleasant – perhaps even more so than at MNL’s larger but depressingly bland T3.
I chose not to take pictures of T1 on this occasion, so here’s a selection of images I snapped on previous flights to give you an idea of what the building looks like.
The main check-in lobby (taken on 30-09-17).
Some of the check-in counters (taken on 27-06-15).
I’ve chosen this image because we did, in fact, use those particular counters you see above for the flight being reviewed here. Note how the desks are arranged around the sides of the lobby, rather than in the newer and more common setup of parallel rows along the centre of the hall, which speaks to this building’s age.
Incidentally, one of the Jetstar check-in counters at MNL offered priority service for senior citizens. We were able to make use of this as a group, regardless of age, since there were a couple of older family members in our party.
Airside, after immigration and security (taken on 27-06-15).
The 2015 refit of T1 included not only cosmetic upgrades, but also introduced those rather unsightly buckling restrained braces you see in the images above. Well, unsightly they might be, but I appreciate having the additional earthquake protection. (One does wonder if they could have been covered up better … especially those bolted steel plates joining the braces to the existing structure.)
Based on my experience flying out of MNL with the Jetstar group, I’d say the gate assignments aren’t entirely consistent. At times, we’d make use of the large clusters at the far ends of T1’s two arms: the more convenient option, given that the area is fully equipped with concessions and toilets.
Gate cluster (taken on 27-06-15).
At other times – including on this particular flight – we’d be relegated to one of the isolated gates attached to the sides of either arm. These are accessible only by going down a flight of stairs (no lift or escalator), and are completely lacking in shops or toilet facilities. Should one need to take care of, er, urgent business, one would have to surrender one’s boarding pass in exchange for a claim ticket and go back up the stairs, seek out the nearest lavatory, and then come back down (toting carry-on luggage both ways if no companions are on hand to look after the load).
Yep. Not a world-class facility by any stretch of the imagination.
Now that we’ve had our fill of the airport, let’s get ourselves on the aeroplane.
Boarding was done according to a predetermined sequence, with the rear of the plane filled up before moving towards the front. Transit passengers from the flight’s starting point at Singapore (NB: MNL is just an intermediate stop for 3K763), those seated in the bulkhead and exit rows, families with small children, and others requiring special assistance were called up first. Next came the turn of rows 20 through to the last, followed by rows 10 onwards, and finally, all passengers still remaining – ourselves included as our seats were in row 8.
I appreciated the strict enforcement of the announced boarding sequence on the part of the gate staff, with passengers not yet on the notice board directed to stand aside and make way for those actually invited to the door. I’ve mentioned time and again how travellers seeking to board outside their rightful turn are an appalling nuisance, and here I reiterate my call for stiff penalties (fines, whippings, having their hand luggage shredded, that sort of thing…) to be levied on any impatient Tweedledums and Tweedledees forcing themselves into the queue without receiving the appropriate summons.
Jetstar Asia’s A320-200 aircraft are configured in a standard all-economy layout, featuring 180 seats arranged six to a row (3 abreast on either side of a single aisle). Standard seat pitch is rated at 29, width at 17.9 – perfectly adequate for my needs but possibly a tight squeeze for larger folk. If you’re looking for more space, consider investing in an extra-legroom seat along the exit rows or (like the ones in the image below) at the very front of the cabin.
Let’s have a look at the not-so-generously open seats in the rest of the cabin, like the ones we sat in. Here are a couple of shots taken on a previous flight using the very same aeroplane.
Seats on Jetstar Asia A320-200, 9V-JSE (taken on 05-05-17).
As noted earlier, our Starter Plus fare bundles came with the option to choose standard seats at no additional cost; forward and extra-legroom rows are not included. I selected row 8 upon booking, which was as far forward as could be managed without having to pay extra for the premium rows closer to the front (whilst also keeping the party as close together as possible).
Now, a wider shot of the cabin from my seat.
It’s an older plane, as one can tell from the slightly worn upholstery and outdated fittings. I’ve also mentioned in my previous reports of flights on this route (see here and here) that maintenance doesn’t appear to be Jetstar Asia’s strongest suit, especially if the dirty seat pocket interiors are anything to go by. That said, the interiors are at least serviceable in terms of cleanliness and functionality, so I won’t make much more of a fuss about them.
Let’s move on to…
CATERING AND SERVICE
In addition to free checked baggage and standard seat assignments, Standard Plus bundles also come with a complimentary hot meal. Here’s a shot of the pre-order selections that were on offer at the time of our flight:
If none of those will suit, or if one has chosen not to pre-book a meal for whatever reason, other options are available for onboard ordering:
At the time of booking, I chose the black pepper chicken for our outbound flight. Here’s the meal as presented…
…and with the wrapper off.
Note the use of a high-sided disposable paperboard tray to hold the food container, instead of the shallow reusable plastic tray I’ve seen on most other flights. I’m not certain why the substitution was made, but it’s not hard to think of possible reasons: to save weight and thereby economise on fuel; to cut down on the expense of cleaning or replacing plastic trays after use; to create yet another vehicle for earning advertising revenue (Coca-Cola was the featured product in this particular case) … and so on.
Now then, a few words on the food. The main dish consisted of irregularly-sized chunks of boneless chicken meat doused with black pepper sauce. Potato wedges on one side, sliced carrots and green beans on the other. The meat was nicely cooked, tender and juicy, rather than the dry rubbery mass one might have expected from a budget airline meal of this sort. The slightly sweet sauce was rich and flavoursome, with the generous inclusion of coarsely ground black pepper adding both spice and character to the composition. The vegetables … well, nothing to write home about, and perhaps just a tad overcooked, but I’ve got no major complaints.
As shown earlier, there were other options on the menu, amongst them the Singaporean classic Hainanese chicken rice. Here’s a side shot of the same (as served to my travelling companion):
I had a taste of the meal after she’d finished. The meat was also nicely cooked and moist, and the customary flavoured rice on the side was a great complement. That said, I suppose I’d lean more towards the more richly flavoured black pepper chicken if I were to have another chance at ordering either dish.
The portion size was reasonable. Not something that would satisfy a hungry chap with a substantial appetite, but on the generous end of the scale for a relatively short LCC flight.
The meal was served with bottled water and a choice of hot beverage (coffee or tea).
Now then, regarding the onboard service. As with any budget airline flight, there really wasn’t much scope for the cabin crew to demonstrate excellent service on the one hand, and gross incompetence on the other. I’m a not a demanding passenger and I tend not to make any special requests, so I can’t say how efficiently any such requests would have been attended to. That said, the cabin crew appeared to be reasonably polite (though not obsequious) and well-groomed. All of them seemed proficient in English – as one might expect given that the flight was ferrying mainly Singaporean and Filipino passengers – and there was at least one member of staff fluent in Japanese (no doubt appreciated by the homeward-bound Japanese speakers on board).
If you’re the sort of passenger who insists upon individual IFE units and a wide assortment of reading material, then you’re flying on the wrong sort of airline where the Jetstar group are concerned. Like most other LCCs, 3K outfitted their A320 with … well, absolutely nothing in the way of built-in IFE. Then again, that’s par for the course where budget carriers are concerned, and the not-particularly-long duration of our flight (four hours more or less) meant that it was easy enough to go without onboard diversions.
Now then, if it’s simply beyond the realm of possibility to do without some form of digital distraction whilst on this fairly short hop between Manila and Ōsaka, I’d advise you to simply reach into your bag and pull out a tablet or smartphone. No need to wait for the airline to oblige when the answer is sitting right inside one’s pocket. (^_^)
There’s also a small house magazine to flip through, should one find oneself with time to spare after eating and napping.
My general assessment of this flight is no different from the one I reported the last time, so I’ll repeat a few of the lines I wrote for that earlier post:
I try to manage my expectations appropriately when flying with an LCC, and I keep these adjusted standards in mind whilst rating their performance. With this taken into consideration, I’m happy to report that Jetstar Asia’s performance on this particular flight was more than satisfactory. Cramped seats, but adequate; small meal portions, but adequate (and quite tasty to boot); basic cabin service, but adequate. […] I’m not one to demand more than what I’ve fairly paid for, and I certainly believe I got what I paid for.
On the whole, I’ve got little to complain about. That might seem unremarkable in itself, but we’re speaking of a low-cost, no-frills, base-service budget airline here: if anything, the absence of major complaints is already a large vote in its favour. Add the on-time arrival (slightly ahead of schedule in fact), another point that LCCs aren’t exactly famous for, and what you’ve got is a positive experience overall.
All things considered, I’m happy to recommend Jetstar Asia for this route and will gladly fly with them again.