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Aerial photo: Diliman, Quezon City

The aircraft we were flying on in a recent trip circled on the approach to NAIA and we were afforded some terrific opportunities to take aerial shots of Quezon City. This was before the rains of the Christmas holidays so the skies were clear of clouds. Here is one of the photos I took showing the University of the Philippines Diliman campus.

That wide road on the left is Commonwealth Avenue and you can see part of the Elliptical Road at the bottom left. There are few large patches of green in Metro Manila and many are in the largest city – Quezon City. You can see that these include the campus and Balara.

Aerial photos are no longer that rare these days as there are many who take shots from drones. Then, of course, there are shots like these you can take from the plane you’re riding. Have a nice Sunday!

On inflight meals again: Emirates

I decided to take Emirates for my recent trip to The Netherlands as I opted to have a stopover in Dubai to have some recovery time. Travel time between Manila and Dubai took about 8 hours and between Dubai and Amsterdam about 7 hours. I thought (and friends have also told me) that this was better than having a very long flight where you’re practically confined to the aircraft. I have also been informed that the inflight meals on Emirates were better than most airlines even on economy. I must agree with that observation and I’m now posting some of the “stolen” shots I took of the inflight meals.

Breakfast served on the Manila-Dubai leg of my trip

Breakfast on the Dubai-Amsterdam leg of my trip

Menu on the Dubai-Amsterdam leg of my trip

The lunch selection was okay and I always thought that one doesn’t have to gobble up everything served to you inflight. Eat and drink just enough so you won’t feel hungry or thirsty on a long flight. Check out the food if the taste suits you. If you don’t feel eating or it doesn’t taste right to you then perhaps you should pass or opt for some light snacks.

I refrained from taking photos of my meals back to Manila but they were again alright compared to most inflight meals I’ve had. I guess the better ones I’ve had would be on my long haul flights to the US with Japan Airlines (JAL). Of course, I am sure other people would have other opinions about inflight meals including those who categorically state these are unhealthy. You are certainly entitled to your opinion but keep it to yourself and don’t even try posting it here. 🙂

On inflight meals

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

Airport terminal transfer in Sydney

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.

 

San Diego Commuter Air Terminal

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.

IMG11192-20150508-0940The counter at our boarding gate

IMG11193-20150508-1004The cafe/restaurant at the commuter terminal had a relaxed and comfortably feel about it

IMG11194-20150508-1004There was also a bar for those wanting to grab a quick drink, alcoholic or not, prior to their flights

IMG11198-20150508-1033Passengers 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. 

IMG11199-20150508-1123There’s a news stand at the terminal for those who want to grab something to read for the short flight or for later.

IMG11200-20150508-1124The path to the plane was clearly marked. We were fortunate that the rains stopped prior to our boarding the aircraft.

IMG11201-20150508-1124Our 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.

Transfer at Narita

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.

IMG10872-20150503-1523Passengers walk towards the terminal building upon deplaning

IMG10873-20150503-1524Signs show the way for transfer passengers (Green) and those staying in Japan (Yellow).

IMG10875-20150503-1533The long corridor connecting the main Terminal 2 to the satellite is quite spacious.

IMG10876-20150503-1533There are moving walkways along one side of the connector’s right corridor.

IMG10879-20150503-1535Information screens for Terminal 2 departures

IMG10881-20150503-1536Example of a cafe inside the Narita terminal

IMG10883-20150503-1537Play or lounge area for passengers along the wide bridge connecting Terminal 2 with its satellite

IMG10884-20150503-1537Clean and elegant architecture for Narita Airport’s Terminal 2 connection with its satellite

IMG10885-20150503-1537We really liked the “modern Asian” feel of the interior of Narita Airport

IMG10886-20150503-1538Doorway to the satellite with signs clearly showing the way to the boarding gates

IMG10887-20150503-1538Information screens for departing flights at Narita’s Terminal 2

IMG10889-20150503-1546Familiar green telephones and phone card dispensers

IMG10891-20150503-1552Our boarding gate for the Narita – San Diego leg of our trip

I will be writing a few more articles on airports in future posts.

On delayed flights in the Philippines

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.