In 2008 I had the opportunity to fly on Singapore Airlines and earlier this week I flew on Philippine Airlines. I spent two years living in Singapore and am moving on to the Philippines, so I figured it’d be in keeping with this blog to do a comparison of the services offered by both airlines. I’ll also be reposting this on my Philippines blog, Everything But Balot.
When I first flew to Singapore in June of 2008, I had some choices to make. One was which airline I was going to take. I made that decision the simplest way. I took the one that was cheapest. When you’re flying from the US to Singapore, the cost of the ticket can be pretty steep, especially if you’re flying during the summer, so the price point was my major choosing point.
Somehow, Singapore Airlines wound up being the best priced fare at roughly 1400 USD for a one way ticket from New York City, with one layover in Frankfurt, Germany. I have no idea how this happened, but I’m glad it did.
To put it simply, Singapore Airlines is the best flight experience I’ve EVER had. I think it completely enhanced the experience that I got onboard with absolutely no expectations or any knowledge of the airline. With it being the cheapest ticket, I’d assumed it was some sort of low class airline that would get me where I wanted to go, but not necessarily in style.
I was wrong. Singapore Airlines is all about comfort and relaxation while in flight, even if you’re in the economy section. I had a good seat too. I’d booked early and chosen my seat, so I wound up on the aisle. Someone begged me to switch with them, so they could sit next to their spouse, but I declined. Their seat was dead center of the plain, with two seats on either side. I have long legs, so I need the extra space, especially on a 22 hour flight.
Shortly after getting on the plane I was handed a package by a stewardess. I don’t remember if it was prior to take-off or just after the plane leveled out, but it doesn’t really matter. I got it right away and it was a fantastic goodie bag! It had slippers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and I think some soap in it. Right about then I knew I’d lucked up and gotten a good deal, but it only got better.
A little while later, a stewardess came down the aisle and asked me if I’d like to have a glass of champagne. Of course I accepted her offer and then got lost in the menus on the touch-screen TV on the back of the chair in front of me. Oh, and I’d put on my comfy slippers by then too. The TV on the back of the chair was loaded with on-demand movies, TV shows, music and even a few basic games. It kept me thoroughly entertained for the duration of the flight.
The meals I was served were top notch. It was better than some of the things I’d eaten in restaurants. The one meal that still stands out in my mind is the steak dinner I was served. The meat was tender and it was real, rather than being some chopped and reformed meat patty. The vegetables were still crisp.
Between meals there was a steady flow of drinks and snacks, and most importantly, the stewardesses were very prompt and kept their eyes on the passengers to make sure everyone was as comfortable as possible. I could really tell that I was a valued customer, even if I wasn’t in first class.
If I ever make a long-haul flight from Asia to Europe, or back to the US, it will definitely be with Singapore Airlines.
My trip on Philippine Airlines left a lot to be desired. I flew from Singapore to Manila, in the Philippines. It’s a pretty short flight, but even so I expected there to be a level of service offered in exchange for the premium price we paid to fly with their airline over Jetstar, or an even lower priced budget airline. That wasn’t the case, at all. I won’t go into the disaster with my cats here, but do take the time to read it, as that may have affected my opinion. I’ll try to stick to specific examples here.
When we first approached the boarding area, I was expecting to see a large, shiny plane waiting for us. Instead, the plane looked a bit small and old. I kept my hopes up for the interior, but was let down on boarding. The seats were a bit cramped, there was no TV in the back of the chairs, and everything looked really old and worn down. If it weren’t for the uniforms the stewardesses were wearing, it could’ve been a Tiger Airways plane. Not that I have anything against Tiger Airways. I’m just saying that you get what you pay for, and I paid for more than that.
I want to talk specifically about the entertainment services offered. The TVs weren’t in the backs of the chairs, with each person having their own individual screen to suit their taste, but there were drop-down TVs. Each one was set to serve about 3 rows. The screens were small, but they were ok. The movie selection wasn’t bad either. They picked The Tooth Fairy, which I really enjoyed watching the first time around. I got excited and plugged in the complimentary headphones provided by a stewardess. I then found out that I couldn’t change the channel or the value through my armrest. Also, each headphone was playing something from a different channel. I had crappy music in one ear and even crappier music in the other ear. So, I took off the headphones and just looked at the screen for a while.
When the movie started, the stewardesses were distributing meals from their cart. The food was actually pretty good. I had a chicken dish that actually hit the spot, especially since it was accompanied by a Red Ribbon brownie. Red Ribbon is a baking chain in the Philippines that really does it right. I love getting cakes and other goodies from them.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as I can go with the compliments.
After the meal, I think we sat there for about 40 minutes with our empty trays, waiting for a stewardess to come by to collect them. My wife had to use the restroom and couldn’t wait any longer, so we wound up stacking everything together into one tray that I could hold so she could climb out. In the process, we spilled ice water in her lap and on her chair. About 10 minutes later a stewardess finally came by to take the trays, and instead of offering me service, she told me I needed to put everything back on the individual trays before she would take it. Then she moved on and I had to yell at her to get her to come back and take the damn trays I’d put back in order. She should’ve taken the trays and done the work herself. If she’d been more timely in her job it wouldn’t have been necessary to put them like that in the first place.
Also, during the entire flight the cabin felt stuffy and warm. I’m not sure if the air conditioning wasn’t working right, or if they just weren’t running it as often to save on fuel, but it was disappointing. You know how you always think you’ll need a blanket on an airplane because it’s nice and cold? I was wearing flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt and I was still warm.
I spent the rest of the flight furiously updating and arranging my e-book library on my laptop, looking forward to getting off the plane. Instead of being a great experience like Singapore Airlines was, Philippine Airlines made the trip feel like a chore. I don’t understand why I paid more for their tickets. I get better service on Jetstar and the rates are a lot cheaper.
To top it off, when the plane landed it almost veered off the runway. Not sure what that was about, but it seemed a fitting end to an uncomfortable flight.
I suppose I already said it above, but from now on it’ll be Singapore Airlines only for long-haul flights, if my budget permits of course! Other than that, I’d rather take Jetstar than Philippine Airlines again.