Not all first impressions last

I admit it, I was never a fan of Philippine Airlines (PAL) for international flights as much as I am for domestic ones.

Dealing with my flights means keeping myself preoccupied with entertainment – and by this I mean an airline should be equipped with such on a complimentary basis, but PAL flights between the Philippines and the Middle East offer paid inflight WiFi service only. Aside from paying a certain amount for the service, you have to make sure your gadgets are fully loaded with battery to keep you entertained with dreamland and happy thoughts the whole time and away from the bleak reality that you are in your most vulnerable at 39,000 feet above sea level – well, that is if you are a fly-scared freak like me.

Going out of the country again, this would only be my second time getting into a PAL airbus. My first one was when I went home last March, and it wasn’t quite as ideal as my siblings’ and my friend’s international PAL experiences. For a nine-hour travel, the least I wanted was a smaller, zero-complimentary-entertainment aircraft cruising above the Indian Ocean. Luckily, I did not take their words for it, I remained presumptuous and skeptical so as not to disappoint myself. For once, I proved them wrong. My presumption and my first impression were enough to convince me PAL could not yet measure up to big airline brands I had experience with such as Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways and Emirates.

Flying with me this time were my sister and her two-year-old son, and so we enjoyed the privilege of getting into the plane in no time and without taking the long, monotonous cue. And again because we had a child onboard, forward seats with wider space were afforded to us – thanks to the gentleman who we had our luggage checked in with at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Aboard Airbus 330-300
Aboard Airbus 330-300

Thankfully, the child slept an hour before the plane took off and kept sleeping until the seventh hour – just an hour prior to landing. And so I got to worry for one thing now – the bumps.

Before taking off, our pilot in command did his welcome greeting routine, and this time I noticed that he emphasized the use of seatbelt throughout the journey. I reckoned they made it a policy to include this in the captain’s greeting after the recent PAL Honolulu-Manila flight incident. The takeoff was smooth and unperturbed. The friendly, helpful and unassuming crew attended to the passengers’ needs (especially those with kids) with warm, sincere smiles – this is something I miss when flying on any other international planes.

A fly-scared freak that I am, I counted the times the captain turned the seatbelt sign on during turbulence – five. However, the plane’s maneuver during such “shaky situations” was the excellent one so far. In my previous flights turbulence felt like unforgiving rocks underneath the plane – bumps were disturbing (and bag compartment doors clacking) you couldn’t help wondering whether you would make it safely to your destination, at least that’s how I felt. This time though it was as silky-smooth as it could get under ANY circumstance.

Equally excellent was the landing. I did not have to lean my arm against the seat in front of me – it was a first for me. The landing was remarkably smooth and easy. Passengers got off happy, and so did my nephew.

This time around PAL proved me wrong – not all first impressions last. For one, the service was brilliant; for another, the flight operation was noteworthy. Possibly on my next flight, entertainment will not be my priority, and I will not have second thoughts on flying a PAL airbus again.

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