Saturday, October 4, 2014

Flying again

The Clairvoyant's post this morning read like this: "after months of nesting, hitting the skies again." While its not been so long since the last time she traveled overseas (the last time would be May 2014 in Hong Kong), that was almost 5 months ago. We moved into our new home only last March right after we traveled together to Tokyo in late February. Since then, I have had the more recent trips, both domestic, to Iloilo and Puerto Princesa only last month.

Her trip to London will be a long one, around 15 hours non-stop. I just hope that her aircraft is a good one. We've been reading a lot lately about Philippine Airlines downgrading the plane used in its Manila-London-Manila flights. They started out with their newly acquired long-range Boeing 777's but now are using "used" Airbus A340's for the flight, which happens to be their only one in a European destination. I make a big fuss out of this because the sleek B777's are better equipped for long flights even for people traveling on economy (or Fiesta Class as PAL terms it). The A340's are supposed to have been leased by PAL from Airbus and were previously utilized by another airline so they have had some mileage among them. Shame on PAL for downgrading the aircraft. They don't seem to realize how much "word of mouth" and online buzz this is generating that will eventually hurt their ridership along this route. Apparently, as one online article points out, PAL has decided to deploy their B777's to the US routes. The direct flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles had been utilizing the B747s that were already retired recently. So it seems the focus is the US market where, of course, there is a considerable number of Filipinos that they think will likely take PAL between Manila and SF or LA.

I was reminded of one flight from San Francisco where people expected a B747 only to board what seemed to be an older A330 heading back to Manila a couple of years ago. That was definitely a letdown in terms of comfort and a lot of passengers were probably thinking that they won't be flying PAL again after that. This is basically the sentiments of a lot of people who flew between Manila and London after the downgade. And to think that the options prior to the direct flight by PAL were Singapore Airline via Singapore, Thai Airways via Bangkok or Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong - all excellent carriers. There are no shortcuts to getting back the confidence of travelers and earning back a reputation for good service (PAL was excellent before!) and PAL definitely needs to determine (and quickly!) whether it is lining up as a budget carrier or a legacy and full service airline that it should be.

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