Words by Anna Howard
Let's face it; when it comes to travel, there's one thing that tops most wish lists: flying at the pointy end of a plane. It's usually reserved for those with travel funds to spare or a hefty collection of frequent flyer points. My travel budget typically finances culinary adventures so my seat in the sky usually takes a backseat to my tastebuds. But now, I can say I've officially joined the club. Or at least, held a visitor's pass. I was fortunate enough to tick off the coveted Business Class experience on a recent trip to the Philippines.
Route: Manila to Sydney
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Class: Mabuhay (business)
Seat Number: 17H
Duration: 8 hours, 25 minutes
Baggage Allowance: 40 kilograms
I could get used to this...
Plus, as we had flown in from Bohol, luggage had been checked all the way through meaning we could bypass any hold-ups at the check-in desk. Immigration was also a breeze.
Your Mabuhay fare grants you access to the newly refurbished Mabuhay Lounge at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Equal parts inviting, comfortable and functional, the moody, dimly-lit space is a peaceful retreat to while away a few hours before your flight. If travelling from Australia, your ticket includes access to the Air New Zealand lounge in Sydney or Qantas Lounge in Brisbane.
The Mabuhay Lounge is made up of three distinct zones – a dining area with a seating capacity of 80 and marble bar with made-to-order cocktails; the relaxing and quiet 'Library'; and 'Flights of Fancy', a theatre set-up with plush leather seats facing a large television screen. Throughout, you'll also find plenty of outlets to charge your devices, free Wi-Fi and shower facilities.
But, all eyes are immediately drawn to the marble buffet, an elongated countertop scattered with an array of fresh-out-of-the-kitchen dishes. From dumplings and Filipino noodles to hot sandwiches and sweet treats, there's no doubt you'll board your flight with a few extra grams of 'carry-on'.
I had to tear myself away from the languid spoils of the Mabuhay Lounge to board the flight. I settled into 17H, an aisle seat within a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration. Talk about leg room! The 54-inch seat pitch awarded my short stature generous space to spread out.
As for the 21-inch seat width, the space was more than enough to wriggle in and get comfortable. The seat also transformed into a fully-flat recliner which was a welcome treat. The seat offered enough overnight comfort when the lights went out, though not to the point that the experience would spoil any future flights in economy.
The cabin crew were attentive and personable and we were offered fruit juices or smoothies, hot towels and menus to peruse before take-off.
As part of its PAL Master Chef Series, Philippines Airlines works with a roster of four international chefs to create exclusive onboard menu items and I was eager to sample Chef Clinton Lyles' braised beef with shallot demi-glace and creamy polenta. So did everyone else it seemed. I was consolidated with the pork spare ribs in vinegar. A tasty meal, but given my craving for the beef, and the late hour, my meal was mostly left untouched.
The beverage selection was extensive, with a wide variety of wines and spirits to choose from. I was particularly taken with the bubbles, a Charles Heidsiek Brut Reserve, and a Hardys Stamp Riesling Gewurztraminer.
You know what they say about the second dessert stomach... While I was stuffed to the brim and fighting to keep my eyelids open at this late hour, I couldn't say no to dessert – a light, fluffy mango crema and cheese plate. The cheese selection came with nuts and some dried fruit, though crackers would have been a more practical and enjoyable accompaniment.
Personal and generously-sized screens were stowed in the armrest compartment. In terms of entertainment, the movie selection was adequate – especially compared to the Brisbane–Manila route.
Recent blockbuster films included Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, Paper Towns and Fantastic Four. The content is extensive enough to keep you occupied for hours, but all I had on my mind was taking advantage of getting horizontal for a few hours of shut-eye...
The writer travelled as a guest of Philippine Airlines and TPBGOVPH.