Travel Throwback: A 2012 Manila-Bangkok flight on Philippine Airlines

Look at what I’ve found in the deepest, darkest depths of my photo archive: a handful of old snapshots from a 2012 round-trip flight between Manila and Bangkok on Philippine Airlines.

Since we’re dealing with ancient history here, allow me to state the following in big bold letters:

This Travel Throwback report concerns a round-trip flight taken in 2012 (that’s eight years ago as of this writing). Please note that the lounge and aircraft interiors featured here no longer reflect Philippine Airlines’ current passenger facilities and equipment.

The date: Friday, 28th September 2012. The place: Terminal 2 of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

After checking in for a Bangkok-bound Philippine Airlines (PR) flight, I passed through immigration and went in search of the Mabuhay Lounge.

Now long-time readers might remember the full Mabuhay Lounge report I published a while back. Bear in mind, however, that the report in question describes the state of the lounge after it was given a massive facelift in 2013. The scene that greeted me in September 2012 was very different indeed.

Goodness me.

This place wouldn’t pass muster as a bus shelter, much less as an exclusive waiting room for Business Class passengers and frequent flyers. If you’re in need of an antidote to counteract the blandness dripping from that image, have a look at my Mabuhay Lounge report to see the results of the 2013 renovation.

The buffet wasn’t much better, but I managed to scrape together a simple breakfast. Note that it was a Friday—a day of abstinence from meat amongst Roman Catholics (yes, traditionally that also includes Fridays outside of Lent!)—so in PR’s defence, my selection would have looked more varied had I come here on a different day.

Later, I marched aboard one of PR’s Airbus A340 jets. There were four in the fleet at the time, but all were retired by 2014 (and subsequently scrapped). The airline would go on to lease another 6 A340s—with a different interior configuration—whilst waiting for new B777s and A350s to be delivered; these were finally withdrawn by 2018.

The A340 I flew on was originally fitted with a three-class interior. 12 First Class seats in front, followed by 32 Business Class seats, and then 220 Economy Class seats in the main cabin. After PR phased out First Class from its service offering, the forward section on the A340 was reallocated to Business Class without any physical changes being made. The result: Business Class passengers assigned to the first two rows would enjoy better seats and much greater legroom than passengers of the same class in the middle cabin.

I believe—though I could be mistaken—that the middle cabin would eventually be stripped out and fitted with Economy seats, leaving the forward cabin as the only piece of Business Class territory on board (with the old First Class seats left in place). If correct, this configuration would have persisted only for a short while longer, as PR retired all A340s of this type by 2014.

On both legs of the round-trip journey, I happened to be one of the fortunate Business Class passengers seated in the old First Class cabin. But here’s the thing: the aircraft’s interior fittings were so out of date—even for the time—that my former First seat seemed less well-equipped than the Business seats of other airlines.

Remember, this was once considered a First Class seat. These days, you’d find better equipment in some airlines’ Premium Economy cabins.

But as a reminder (and to be perfectly fair to PR):

This Travel Throwback report concerns a round-trip flight taken in 2012 (that’s eight years ago as of this writing). Please note that the lounge and aircraft interiors featured here no longer reflect Philippine Airlines’ current passenger facilities and equipment.

Okay, now that we’re clear on the matter…

…let’s have a wider shot of the cabin. There were only 12 seats in this section, arranged in two rows (with the middle seats staggered slightly forward).

Note the old-fashioned main screen in the image above. These seats were fitted with fold-out PTVs (you can see them under the centre armrest in the picture above that one), but the picture quality was borderline unwatchable and there were no personal controls to speak of.

As for the back of each seat…well, forget about power points or cupholders or touch-screen IFE monitors. Just a fabric-lined pocket filled with the usual onboard literature.

The legroom wasn’t something to complain about, though.

It was there—in spades.

The seat controls—embedded in the side armrest—were primitive in appearance and of limited functionality.

That said, I did find the seat quite comfortable in its fully stretched, not-quite-lie-flat-but-nearly-there position.

Now for the in-flight meals, starting with lunch service on the outbound Manila-Bangkok flight (28th September 2012).

I’d initially requested a vegetarian meal for this flight, in compliance with the traditional Catholic Friday abstinence from meat. Seafood is permitted of course, but I’m just not fond of the stuff.

The starter was a salad of grilled and pickled vegetables, served with warmed bread and butter.

Whilst perusing the menu earlier in the flight, I saw that one of the mains featured fish as its centrepiece. Now I don’t normally eat seafood (as mentioned earlier), but I’m not averse to having a tiny bit of fish on occasion—as opposed to squid or crustaceans or anything similar where the merest whiff is enough to make me nauseous. I enquired of the cabin crew whether I could have the fish instead of the vegetarian main, and they were kind enough to accommodate the change.

I can’t remember exactly how the dish was described on the menu. That said, it’s apparent from the photographs that it consisted of a boneless fillet of fish, served with potato gratin and vegetables.

Next, let’s have a look at what was offered on the return Bangkok-Manila flight (1st October 2012). That was on a Monday, so meat was back on the table. 🙂

Before meal service began, I was offered a welcome snack of nuts and a choice of beverage. I went with my customary selection: PR’s signature mango smoothie.

A similar welcome course would have been served on the outbound flight, although I don’t have a photograph of that.

Next, the appetiser. I believe this was a chicken satay or something of that kind.

Now for the main course: tender strips of beef in garlic sauce served with rice and vegetables.

I also remember being served ice cream as a snack after the meal. The small tub arrived on my table straight from the freezer, its contents hard as concrete; the flight attendant advised me to wait a bit before chiselling my way into the product. In due course, I began to pick at the ice cream even before it had sufficiently softened, with the same flight attendant letting out a cheerful “Success!” after I’d managed to dig some of it out.

Before we go, let’s repeat my initial disclaimer one more time, in case someone doing an internet search comes across this post and thinks that PR’s planes still look like the now-scrapped antique featured here.

This Travel Throwback report concerns a round-trip flight taken in 2012 (that’s eight years ago as of this writing). Please note that the lounge and aircraft interiors featured here no longer reflect Philippine Airlines’ current passenger facilities and equipment.

And now we’re done. 😉

Cheerio.

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