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I remember having full meals during domestic flights I took with my family back in the 1970s and 1980s. Morning flights provided for a good enough breakfast, noon had a good enough lunch, and evenings had good enough dinners. I say “good enough” because there seems to be a general aversion to airline food among passengers. To be fair, the meals served on Philippine Airlines (PAL) domestic flights in the 1970s and 1980s were okay. They were not gourmet or what you’d expect at good restaurants but the meals are not garbage or awful as some people would state. I think many people expected too much from airline food. Perhaps they want the food served on First Class or Business Class to be the same served on Economy?
I enjoyed my meals on Economy Class on Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Thai Airways. And recently, I also enjoyed the meals served on my Qantas flights between Manila, Sydney and Melbourne. Here are some photos from those flights:
Healthy snack on my Melbourne to Sydney flight with Qantas
Beef and steamed vegetables on my flight back to Manila
Ice cream bar for dessert
Afternoon snack – the noodles were good
My flight to Melbourne was via Sydney. I chose Qantas because of the more favorable schedule as well as the cheaper fares the schedule provided compared with Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines (via Singapore). And so knowing I would have to transfer at Sydney airport, I decided to have more than an hour’s layover there. It turned out to be a good decision as we had to pick-up our luggage, clear customs and then walk over to the transfer area at the international terminal to have our check-in luggage tagged and dropped off before proceeding to ride a transporter (bus) to the domestic terminal. It was also a good thing that Qantas already thought about such transfers and had good facilities and service for such. Needless to say, the transfer was smooth/efficient.
We had to get our baggage after clearing immigration
We had to walk towards the Qantas transfer facility to have our baggage tagged and dropped off for our connecting flights. In my case, that was for my journey to Melbourne.
After dropping off our luggage, we waited to board the bus that would take us to the domestic terminal. The service frequencies are shown in the sign above.
I was near the front of the line is I was able to board early and take a photo as people were just filling the bus.
Scenes of aircraft ground operations while we were in transit from the international terminal to the domestic terminal includes this American Airlines jet replenishing on inflight meals.
Here’s another view of the same jet getting serviced at the airport.
This is how the bus looks once it fills with people
This is the scene when we arrived at the domestic terminal. Passengers at the terminal were also waiting to board the bus bound for the international terminal.
En route to my boarding gate, I took a few photos of the corridor lined with various shops.
There were also cafes and restaurants for those wanting to have or grab a quick meal or drink.
I arrived at the boarding gate with much time ahead of my flight. There were, however, many passengers already waiting, too.
It seems crowded but there were enough seats for those wanting to relax while waiting for the boarding call. Others seem to prefer just standing (healthier?) there. It was still early in the morning so most people were just quiet or conversing softly with fellow travelers. I myself was a bit sleepy and looking forward to taking a nap on the 1.5-hour flight to Melbourne.
I’m starting July with a post I started writing after our trip to the US last May but which I only finished recently. The info won’t likely become stale for quite some time so its still pretty much informative for those traveling from San Diego by plane. [Correction: The terminal closed in early June with flights transferred to the main terminal or replaced by larger aircraft. For more info, you can check out this link.]
We mistakenly went to San Diego Airport’s main terminal. It turned out that our flight to Los Angeles would be via the smaller commuter terminal. It’s a good thing that they had an airport shuttle for the convenience of passengers traveling from one terminal to another. The commuter terminal sort of reminded me of the old low cost carrier terminal at Singapore’s Changi Airport but San Diego’s I think is much better in terms of amenities and design.
The counter at our boarding gate
The cafe/restaurant at the commuter terminal had a relaxed and comfortably feel about it
There was also a bar for those wanting to grab a quick drink, alcoholic or not, prior to their flights
Passengers waiting for their flights relax by conversing with their company, having a drink, listening to music or reading or just plain sitting and looking around.
There’s a news stand at the terminal for those who want to grab something to read for the short flight or for later.
The path to the plane was clearly marked. We were fortunate that the rains stopped prior to our boarding the aircraft.
Our SkyWest plane is the smallest jet aircraft I’ve ridden on. The last time I was on an airplane of this size, it was on a turboprop between Tacloban and Manila. The space above the seats was limited and could probably fit a briefcase sized bag so if you have one of those backpacks or thicker bags with your computer, you would have to place them under the seat in front of you. Of course, this can be uncomfortable to many considering the also constricted leg room in these small aircraft.
Our trip to the US was via Japan Airlines (JAL), which meant we had a layover at Narita International Airport where we changed planes. The stop was over three hours and so I took my time walking from our arrival gate towards our boarding gate in the satellite terminal of the airport. This was so I could get a few, ok a lot, of photos. Of course, I wasn’t able to and didn’t take photos at sensitive areas of the airport (immigration, security checks) as these areas prohibit the use of camera and cellphones.
Passengers walk towards the terminal building upon deplaning
Signs show the way for transfer passengers (Green) and those staying in Japan (Yellow).
The long corridor connecting the main Terminal 2 to the satellite is quite spacious.
There are moving walkways along one side of the connector’s right corridor.
Information screens for Terminal 2 departures
Example of a cafe inside the Narita terminal
Play or lounge area for passengers along the wide bridge connecting Terminal 2 with its satellite
Clean and elegant architecture for Narita Airport’s Terminal 2 connection with its satellite
We really liked the “modern Asian” feel of the interior of Narita Airport
Doorway to the satellite with signs clearly showing the way to the boarding gates
Information screens for departing flights at Narita’s Terminal 2
Familiar green telephones and phone card dispensers
Our boarding gate for the Narita – San Diego leg of our trip
I will be writing a few more articles on airports in future posts.
I participated in a conference held in Puerto Princesa, Palawan last November and both my flights to and from Puerto Princesa were delayed. The first one was delayed by 1 hour. We boarded on time and there were no announcements of delays. However, we sat inside the plane for about an hour including taxiing towards the runway and then waiting in queue before we were cleared for take-off. The pilot was constantly on the PA system though, informing passengers about the cause of the delay, which was airport congestion. This was a reference to the many take-offs and landings (departing and arriving aircraft) being handled by the airport at the time. It seems air traffic control could not cope with the number of aircraft departing and arriving at NAIA even considering the airport had two runways that were operational (We took off using the secondary runway.).
Aircraft taxiing towards NAIA’s main runway in preparation for take-off
I won’t mention specific airlines as I think domestic flights by all airlines have been incurring significant delays and not just recently but among the main possible reasons for delays that can be charged to the airline are the following:
1. Airport congestion – This can refer to either the runway or the passenger terminal. However, for the latter case you can have examples of very congested or crowded terminals of airports that have planes taking off and landing on time. Tagbilaran and Roxas Airports are like that, and Mactan (Cebu) and Bacolod-Silay have passenger terminals that are becoming if not already congested. Thus, airport congestion as a reason for delays must be due to runway operations. A single runway airport will handle fewer flights compared to those with multiple runways. Airport runway design and configuration are influenced by many factors but given any single runway in a major airport like NAIA it is already assumed that these factors are already considered in operation and on a typical day under normal or even favorable conditions, the only other significant factor for runway operations is air traffic control. Air traffic controllers would be responsible for guiding arriving flights and clearing planes for take-off. The number of take-offs and landings will also be significantly affected by how air traffic control “queues” planes in the air and on the ground.
2. Too many flights – Airlines tend to maximize the use of their aircraft and seem to be scheduling more flights that they can handle. This results in the very common “late arrival of turnaround aircraft” reason that airlines announce as the reason for delayed flights. Granted, in many cases this is ultimately due to reason #1, it seems that other airlines that have lesser flights also have less problems of this kind. In fact, I have observed that in many if not most instances, international carriers do not incur as much delays as local carriers and among local carriers there seem to be a unanimous observation on which “planes are always late” these days.
It seems at first that the main issue is not necessarily airlines overbooking their flights since air traffic control and the number of runways can be major factors influencing the number of aircraft that can take-off and land during a particular period. However, one particular airline has a knack for offering a lot of flights that they obviously cannot handle with all the delays and cancellations they have been incurring to the consternation of a lot of travelers. Though I myself use the airline often due to the convenience of their schedules and frequencies, I too have been victimized many times of these delays including one flight to Singapore a couple of years ago when, instead of arriving in time for dinner I ended up arriving home just after midnight.
Recently, there have been calls for the airline and others performing like it to be penalized in order for them to realize how much inconvenience they have brought on to their passengers. I think this is right in order to send a clear message to airlines that safety and service come first before profit. Too many flights, no matter how convenient to the passengers in terms of schedule, is not a substitute for good quality service. Being a budget airline also does not excuse it from what a lot of people have branded as crappy service. This mentality of airlines reminds me only of similar mentality among bus and jeepney operators (land transport) but that’s another story.
Wunderground’s latest 5-day forecast for Hagupit
On our most recent trip to Japan, we took Philippine Airlines instead of the usual Delta in our previous trips. For one, PAL offered full service at a competitive price (Delta and JAL were more expensive) and the new schedules meant we could fly to Narita in the morning and arrive there early afternoon, and return to Manila in the evening. This was practically Delta’s schedule. It also helped that PAL was using NAIA Terminal 2 so that meant a better terminal for us compared to the congested and dilapidated NAIA Terminal 1. Of course, there were other choices including ANA, which I would have preferred if only it wasn’t so expensive even compared to JAL. Low cost carriers were also not on our list as we had the budget for full service and we didn’t like the schedules.
We arrived at Narita after a smooth flight and our plane proceeded to Terminal 2, which most Asian airlines use. I have not used this terminal for quite some time now as I usually planed in via Delta or its predecessor Northwest. The last time I was in Terminal 2 was in 1999 when I was returning home to Manila after 3 years in Yokohama, Japan. That time, I used JAL as part of my benefits of being a Monbusho scholar.
Moving walkway or “walkalator” to the arrivals area for immigration processing.
A view of aircraft docked at the airport shows a couple of JAL planes and one of Cathay Pacific. I like JAL’s old logo compared to its new one. This retro look gives you a feeling of nostalgia.
A computer-generated, anime image of an airport staff member greeting arriving passengers to Japan.
Entry towards the immigration counters
Past immigration and proceeding towards the baggage claim area.
Descending to the baggage claim area, passengers are provided information on a huge board on which carousel their baggage will be coming out of. To be sure, ground staff hold a placard directing PAL passengers to the assigned carousel.
Narita’s expanse becomes more obvious at the baggage claim area.
Luggage coming out for passengers to pick up from the carousel.
Ground staff remind passengers to check whether they got the correct luggage from the carousel. Many bags are identical so people should have a distinctive feature on their luggage whether its a tag, sticker, strap or others.
Airport limousine bus counters – there are limousine buses bound for many destinations in the Kanto area. I usually took the limousine bus to get back to Yokohama when I was a student in Japan in the 1990s.
Keisei Skyliner train counter – the Skyliner is less expensive than the limousine buses and for those who travel light, it is a good option going to Tokyo. The last two stops are at Nippori and Ueno Stations where one can easily transfer to JR or subway lines. Other rail options are JR’s Narita Express (NEX) and JR Yokosuka-Sobu Line’s Airport Narita service. I usually take the latter from Yokohama Station.
Giant electronic boards at the arrival lobby provide information on flights arriving and departing Narita Terminal 2.
Our hosts gave instructions to take the limousine bus but part of our group were fetched by car. I was invited to join them because we were staying at the same hotel. The others stayed at another hotel. And so we walked to the upper level of the terminal to cross towards the parking building. The yellow line in the photo is a standard feature of many facilities in Japan that make them PWD-friendly. These are guides for blind people who can use their canes to “feel” the directions.
Another view of the information board from the upper level of the terminal.
Quite an unusual description of the parking building levels, which we thought were signature Japanese.
Floor information for Terminal 2
On the bridge from Terminal 2 to the parking building, we have a good view of the driveway and the slots for VIPs.
Paying for parking at one of the machines at the parking building.
We were curious about the sign that also mentioned a pet hotel. I guess travelers who didn’t have anyone to leave their pets with at home can now have the convenience of checking in their pets at the hotel to take care of the animals while they were away.
Waiting zone for vehicles – our host went to get our vehicle while we waited at the designated area.
I am already looking forward to a next trip to Japan. Perhaps I will take PAL again in a future flight? Actually, I was a bit disappointed that they used a smaller plane for our flight even if it was a new Airbus A321 Neo. I think I got used to the B747s that Delta and JAL used for their flights (I think JAL and ANA now uses the fuel efficient B777’s while Delta retained its B747s that eventually continue to the US). I think the smaller aircraft by PAL was the result of a combination of cost cutting (fuel-wise) and their increasing the frequency of flights. No matter, if you know that a nice airport like Narita is waiting on the other end of trip, it is a flight worth looking forward to.