Review: Philippine Airlines A350 Business Class

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Review: Philippine Airlines A350 Business Class


After my ground experience in Manila I was extremely excited to board my Philippine Airlines flight to Toronto. So, how is Philippine Airlines’ A350? Can they compete with other excellent airlines in the region, or do they still have a long way to go?

Booking Philippine Airlines Business Class

Philippine Airlines doesn’t belong to one of the major global alliances, though they do have reasonable paid business class fares between many markets. In particular, they seem to have excellent fares out of Taipei, which worked great for this trip.

I managed to book the following for ~1,200USD one-way, with the first segment on the A321, and the second segment on the A350-900:

01/29 PR891 Taipei to Manila departing 9:40AM arriving 12:05PM [Business]
01/29 PR118 Manila to Toronto departing 4:30PM arriving 7:00PM [Business]

Philippine Airlines Business Class A350 Review

I’m always excited to board a long haul flight, though was especially excited to get comfortable after the ground experience I had in Manila. Boarding was scheduled to start at 3:45PM, and sure enough, that’s exactly when boarding started (even if the whole process was chaos).

Onto “The Love Bus” we go!

Philippine Airlines A350 Manila

Philippine Airlines 118
Manila (MNL) – Toronto (YYZ)
Wednesday, January 29
Depart: 4:30PM
Arrive: 7:00PM
Duration: 15hr30min
Aircraft: Airbus A350
Seat: 7A (Business Class)

I boarded through the second set of doors, where I was directed left into the business class cabin once my boarding pass was verified.

Philippine Airlines has a variant of the Thompson Aero Vantage XL seat on their A350s, which you’ll find on several other airlines. Philippine Airlines has a total of 30 business class seats, spread across eight rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Philippine Airlines A350 business class cabin

As is standard with these staggered seats, in each row seat configurations alternate, as the footwell for a particular seat is to the side of seats in front.


Philippine Airlines business class cabin A350

Along the windows, in even numbered rows seats are closer to the aisles and further from the windows. These wouldn’t be my preferred seats, since they lack privacy and it’s hard to look out the windows.


Philippine Airlines A350 business class seat


Philippine Airlines A350 business class seat


Philippine Airlines A350 business class seat

Instead I recommend window seats in odd numbered rows, which are much cozier — they’re close to the windows, they’re further from the aisles, and they feel like they have more privacy. I selected seat 7A, the last “true” window seat on the left side, in the second to last row.


Philippine Airlines business class seat A350


Philippine Airlines business class seat A350


Philippine Airlines business class seat A350

To the side of the seat was some exposed storage space, as well as the seat controls, entertainment controls, a 110v outlet, a USB outlet, and headphone jacks.


Philippine Airlines business class seat storage


Philippine Airlines business class seat controls


Philippine Airlines business class entertainment controls & outlets

The tray table slid out from the side console, and couldn’t be folded over in half, or anything. If it’s extended, there’s no way you’re getting out.


Philippine Airlines business class tray table

The one major downside to staggered seats is that the footwells can be restrictive, though these footwells were on the more spacious side as far as staggered configurations go. It wasn’t as restrictive as a “throne” seat, which you’ll find in some staggered layouts.


Philippine Airlines business class seat footwell

A350s have cool-looking overhead consoles, though unfortunately there were no individual air nozzles to be found here.


Philippine Airlines A350 overhead console

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pair of headphones, which were decent quality, though certainly not Bose or B&O.


Philippine Airlines business class headphones

There was also some half decent bedding, including a pillow and blanket. The bedding isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. Fortunately I was able to grab an extra pillow from an empty seat nearby.


Philippine Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat was an amenity kit, with products from ACCA KAPPA. There was body lotion, lip balm, socks, eyeshades, a dental kit, a comb, and some fragrance.


Philippine Airlines business class amenity kit

Just a minute after settling in, the flight attendant who would be taking care of me, Fourth, introduced himself. Philippine Airlines proactively offers champagne as a pre-departure drink — Fourth showed up with a glass and a bottle of champagne, and poured it at my seat. That’s a cute touch!


Philippine Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

A few minutes later I was given a warm towel on a tray.


Philippine Airlines business class hot towel

About halfway through boarding I was presented with the menu for the flight.


Philippine Airlines business class menu

A few minutes after that my dinner and breakfast order were already taken, including being asked what I want to drink with each meal. I always find this to be a bit of an overkill — it’s one thing if we’re talking about a short overnight flight where you want to maximize rest, but I really don’t know what I don’t to drink in 14 hours.

What made this flight pretty special is how empty it was in business class, even though it was packed in economy and premium economy. There were nine passengers in business class, and they all chose to sit in the first few rows. It was a bit surreal that I had the back half of the cabin all to myself.

Philippine Airlines A350 business class cabin

It’s not often that this is the cabin view you have on a fully boarded long haul flight!


Philippine Airlines A350 business class cabin


Empty Philippine Airlines business class cabin

At around 4:10PM Captain Emmanuel introduced himself and his three co-pilots, informing us of our flight time of 14h30min, and our cruising altitude of 41,000 feet. A few minutes later, Purser Eve added her welcome aboard.

As was the case on the last flight, both reminded us that Philippine Airlines is “the heart of the Filipino” (which they ever-so-slightly overplay).

At 4:20PM the main cabin door closed, and then five minutes later we began our pushback. At that point the safety video was screened (once again, proudly from “the heart of the Filipino):

Not surprisingly, there were several Gulf carriers parked at the terminal, given the amount of traffic there is between the Philippines and the Middle East. There were 777s from Saudia, Etihad, and Kuwait.

Saudia 777 Manila Airport


Etihad 777 Manila Airport


Kuwait Airways 777 Manila Airport

We then taxied past Philippine Airlines’ maintenance bay, where they had about a dozen planes parked/being worked on.


Philippine Airlines A321 Manila Airport


Philippine Airlines A350 Manila Airport

We had quite a long taxi, and by 4:50PM we were cleared for takeoff. We had a long takeoff roll, and a gradual climb out.

Taking off from Manila

View after takeoff from Manila

As we climbed out I browsed Philippine Airlines’ extensive A350 entertainment system.


Philippine Airlines A350 entertainment system

They had 150 movies and 120 TV shows, which is better than I was expecting.


Philippine Airlines entertainment system A350


Philippine Airlines entertainment system A350

However:

  • The map feature seemed to be broken for the entire flight, as it simply said “moving map is currently unavailable”
  • Philippine Airlines doesn’t have a tail camera feature, which virtually every other airline operating the A350 has
  • There were issues with my controller — sometimes it worked fine, and other times it was unresponsive


Philippine Airlines map issues

I also took the opportunity to connect to the wifi.


Philippine Airlines business class wifi

There are a few pricing options for Philippine Airlines wifi:

  • Everyone gets 15MB of free wifi
  • You can buy 100MB of wifi for $10
  • You can buy unlimited wifi for $40


Philippine Airlines business class wifi pricing

I planned on working for much of the flight (since most of the flight was during US daytime business hours), so I went ahead and just purchased the unlimited pass for $40. That’s steep pricing, but not totally unreasonable with no data caps.

The seatbelt sign was turned off about 10 minutes after takeoff, and a few minutes later really flimsy slippers were distributed.

Philippine Airlines business class slippers

A few minutes after that free wifi cards were distributed. Business class passengers get 100MB of free wifi. I didn’t realize this when I purchased the pass for wifi, though realistically I was planning on using significantly more than 100MB of wifi, so I guess it wasn’t a big deal one way or another.

Philippine Airlines business class wifi voucher

I do find it interesting that the wifi pass talks about the way you can redeem your 100MB, including making a call to loved ones for over 10 minutes. Don’t most airlines ban talking on the phone through wifi?

The meal service was quick to get started after takeoff. There was a dinner service after takeoff, and then later in the flight you could order a hot snack and/or breakfast at your convenience.

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

25 minutes after takeoff I was served canapés, consisting of chorizo and shrimp. I had a glass of champagne, and they were serving Louis De Sacy Grand Cru.

Philippine Airlines business class dinner — canapés

About 35 minutes after takeoff tablecloths were brought out, and then five minutes after that the starter was served. Philippine Airlines serves the entire meal directly on your tray, rather than bringing out a tray, which is a nice touch.

There were two appetizers to choose from, and I selected the laswa soup, with shrimp-flavored consommé with local vegetables. I was also offered a selection of bread from the breadbasket.


Philippine Airlines business class dinner — starter

Given the light load in business class, service was customized, and everything was brought out as each passenger was ready.

There were four main course options, and I selected the coco cream prawns in fresh turmeric sauce, stewed prawns in coconut milk with fresh turmeric served with sautéed kailan and crab fat fried rice.

Frankly this sounded much better than it tasted. There were just two small shrimp, and the whole dish was surprisingly tasteless.


Philippine Airlines business class dinner — main course

Dessert was served about 10 minutes later, and I selected the yogurt cheesecake with milk crumble and creme anglaise, which was very good.


Philippine Airlines business class dinner — dessert

I was then also offered a cheese plate, which was good as well.


Philippine Airlines business class dinner — cheese plate

Service throughout the meal was friendly and efficient, and my tray was cleared about 90 minutes after takeoff. As the meal finished up I was treated to a beautiful sunset out the window.

Beautiful sunset enroute to Toronto

There were two lavatories in front of the cabin and two behind the cabin, and they were pretty standard for the A350, and didn’t have any special amenities.

Philippine Airlines A350 lavatory

I was tired at this point, so reclined my seat and tried to get some rest.


Philippine Airlines business class bed A350

At this point we had about 13 hours remaining to Toronto, and I was happy that I slept really well. I woke up just over seven hours before landing in Toronto, so I got nearly six hours of sleep. Even though there were no individual air nozzles, the cabin was kept at a reasonable temperature.


Philippine Airlines business class bed A350

Upon waking up I tried to connect to the wifi, but was having issues. There was no connection. I figured we might have been in a region where wifi sometimes cuts out, though long story short wifi didn’t work for the entire remainder of the flight.

Of course mistakes happen, though I feel like the crew didn’t take the situation seriously:

  • I brought this to the crew’s attention when I woke up, and was told “it’s intermittent” (which is fair enough, because that’s true)
  • Two hours later I asked again, and was told the same thing
  • An hour later I asked if they could reset the system, and the flight attendant said he’d do so
  • I asked again 30 minutes later if he had done so, and he simply said “it’s not working”

Of course it’s possible something was truly broken, though I question if they even bothered trying to restart it. I spent most of the flight just editing and resizing pictures from the trip, which didn’t require wifi.

I ordered a cappuccino, which was tasty and beautifully presented on a tray, with a chocolate. The crew wasn’t proactive with service between meals, but when a call button was pushed they’d appear pretty quickly.


Philippine Airlines business class cappuccino 

At this point the sun was slowly starting to rise again…

View enroute to Toronto

I decided to order a hot snack from the menu at this point. I ordered the Thai prawn cakes with pad thai, consisting of fried minced prawn cakes in sweet chilli sauce served with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and pad thai. This was served with a side of fruit.

Unfortunately the dish was lousy — it wasn’t hot, the fish cakes were hard, there was just way too much sauce on it, and the flavor was off.

Philippine Airlines business class snack

A couple of hours later I ordered another coffee, which was once again served with a chocolate.


Philippine Airlines business class coffee

There was also a snack basket that the crew passed through the cabin with at some point, and I took one of the chocolates (as if I hadn’t had enough).

Philippine Airlines business class chocolates

After working for hours on end I decided to watch an episode of “Say Yes To The Dress: Asia” which was so much better than other versions, in my opinion.

Philippine Airlines business class entertainment

About two hours before landing the cabin lights were turned on in preparation for the pre-landing meal. At this point there was once again a beautiful sunset out the window, my second one of this flight.

Sunset enroute to Toronto

Service began with warm towels and drinks being distributed. I selected a mango smoothie, which was sweet but good.

Philippine Airlines business class breakfast

The meal began with fresh fruit (melon and pineapple), and a selection from the breadbasket — I chose a croissant.


Philippine Airlines business class breakfast

Then there were four main course options, and I selected the salmon and spinach omelet, with dill-flavored salmon flakes and spinach-stuffed omelet served with tomato-caper relish and quinoa with grilled vegetables. This was one of the best airplane omelets I’ve had.


Philippine Airlines business class breakfast

At around 5:15PM local time the captain announced that we were about 200 miles from Toronto, and would be landing in 45 minutes, and the seatbelt sign would be coming on soon. The seatbelt sign ended up staying off until 5:50PM.

View approaching Toronto

We touched down in Toronto at 6PM, and arrived at our gate at 6:10PM, a full 50 minutes ahead of schedule.

Philippine Airlines Business Class Bottom Line

I was fairly pleasantly surprised by Philippine Airlines’ A350 business class — the cabin was spacious, the seats comfortable, and the entertainment good. The service was also attentive and friendly, though in fairness, the cabin was less than a third full.

There were definitely some areas for improvement though — I thought the food was hit-or-miss, the map feature was broken for the entire flight, and wifi was broken for most of the flight.

I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Philippine Airlines’ A350 business class again, though I also wouldn’t go out of my way to fly with them.

If you’ve flown Philippine Airlines’ A350 business class, what was your experience like?

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Comments
  1. Me: Google, add a new goal in life for me please: join the mile-high club on Philippine Airlines’ the Love Bus.
    Google: okay, should I update your tinder profile accordingly?

  2. @lucky – great review!
    2 questions….
    1. How do you go about getting a refund for Wifi?
    2. What do you do with all those amenity kits?

  3. the estimates on that wifi card is criminally misleading, even with the disclaimer on the bottom. whoever wrote that must still be living in 2001, visiting geocities and catching up with friends on MSN Messenger. god forbid you’re flying on a historically significant day or you couldn’t even load Google without the Doodle snatching half your data limit. imagine your decides to send you a gif… that would rock my limit in one go.

  4. Fortunately I don’t have to work while flying but the few times I’ve purchased WiFi (on any airline) it rarely works properly and is a waste of money. I’m guessing the vast majority of people don’t complain and get their money back.

    For someone that flies so often, do you often get sick after eating that much airplane food? I can’t imagine ordering any kind of seafood while flying. I was hoping you would have ordered the burger 🙂

  5. I usually like your reviews, but the part about the internet not working really rubs me the wrong way. How do you not know they didn’t restart it or take it seriously? Did you follow them into the galley to see if they restarted it? And how are you positive that a restart would fix it? Are you a software engineer?

  6. My first thought was getting a Wi-Fi refund too.

    But that’s certainly a lot nicer accommodations than a few years ago. Nice to see them upping their game.

  7. Did anyone notice how tight the odd-numbered seats were? In particular, look at the exit way from the seat to the aisle? Looks dangerously confined.

    While I could squeeze my way through, there’s no chance that the majority of US fliers from the Midwest would be able to get one leg through there.

    Are there safety standards to prevent this?

  8. Honestly, Philippine Airlines (PAL) still has a lot of catching up to do, though credit to them, they have taken major strides in recent years to improve. I firmly believe that their soft product is incredible and all that’s left really is just to improve on the hard product. Hopefully they work on this soon. They have alot of potential.

    MABUHAY from the Philippines

  9. Thai dish on a Philippines flight was never going to end well. Rawsons Retreat Red is an economy wine – $8 a bottle in Aus.

  10. After hearing about the treatment of the gays in Phillipines, I have marked visiting that country off of my list.

  11. @Lucky

    You summed up the PAL business class product very accurately. Yes, I would fly with PAL. But, no, I wouldn’t go out of my way either. In other words, an acceptable middling airline.

  12. Did you bother to credit the flights to ANA’s programme? Btw the beaches in the Philippines are quite nice, and might be worth an actual visit!

  13. @Bob, for Lucky to pay $40 for WiFi that is not working, I do not find it unreasonable for Lucky to ask. He also did not sound rude when he asked. It is perfectly okay to follow up on a problem given that it was over a four hour time span on a fourteen hour flight. I would also ask if I were in his shoes. Do not take his action out of context.

  14. @gary hewton
    Ditto on the Beringer chardonnay. Depending upon the label that’s a $10 to $20 USD bottle and not my favorite.

  15. Flight attendant named Fourth. I have little doubt his siblings are First, Second and Third. Love the names in the Phils.

  16. @i miss my uncle Charles. ?? It’s one if the most gay friendly countries in the world and most people are very accepting.

  17. That is not a Philippine Airlines’ maintenance bay. It is Lufthansa Technik’s Philippines facility. They handle a lot different airlines. They do a lot of thorough maintenance on A380s from British Airways and Qantas for example. And their main hanger is seriously huge!

  18. @Terence you are correct the beaches are nice in the Philippines.

    They also have a Aman hotel called Amanpulo which is located in Palawan. Would be perfect for a review since this resort is on a tiny island with it’s own runway. They have their own plane that runs flights from the Manila airport. They even have a lounge at the Manila airport.

    Come on Lucky you need to review this Aman resort.

  19. Lucky, I really used to enjoy your reviews. Usually very positive.
    Just curious, did you and Ford break up?
    Your reviews have been very predictable, and negative.
    I hope all is well at the “home front”.

  20. After watching the safety video with the location names, I have such a long list of new places (to me) where I want to go on vacation!

  21. Since I am Manila based, I fly PAL a lot especially on their long haul sectors to Canada and US. You’re right they’re hit or miss when it comes to food, though I have noticed that the safest bets on PAL’s business class are the Western food options, the Asian options normally overpromise and under deliver.

    For the midnight snack, PAL is known among Filipino’s for their Arroz Caldo which I thought you would try. Never tried the other snack options but I guess like the Asian options they weren’t the priority for their catering.

  22. It truly looks like PAL is trying to make strides in regards to their soft & hard products.
    I collect amenity Kits & this is one of the nicest ones they’ve had in recent memory. A Furla bag & Acca Kappa Products are pretty darn nice.
    It looks like the catering & bedding need to be worked on.
    I know many Filipinos who avoid PAL due to shoddy, inconsistent service in the past. Many natives like to fly EVA, JAL, ANA, Cathay. Perhaps with continuing improvements, the natives will try PAL again.
    Lucky, I always appreciate your straight forward insight & sincerity you put into your reviews.

  23. @David – Not sure about the negativity but agree on predictability.

    “[This] was good.”
    “[That] was good.”
    Read a bit like a book report.

    Also, the math was appreciated but was it necessary?
    “13 hours to fly; I slept 6 hours. Therefore, 7 hours left.”

  24. I enjoyed the review, but I have to share something kind of funny. I’m still drinking my breakfast tea, and I saw the reviews at the top of the page. What I read in those two review headlines was, “Delta Airlines Zombie Class,” and for about a minute my little foggy brain went with it. Until I looked at it again.

    It’s this social distancing; I’m going barmy!

    • Introduction: Starluxing Through A Zombie Apocalypse
    • Review: Delta Air Lines A320 First Class

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