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Even before this race to space by billionaires, one option for travel captured my imagination and attention – supersonic travel. I cannot remember exactly the first time I was on my first flight but I know it was a trip between Manila and Iloilo in the 1970s. Iloilo is the home of my father and we basically had only two options to get there – airplane or ship. While maritime travel was much cheaper, it took a day one way to get to Iloilo and vice versa. We didn’t want to waste two days especially as my father took leaves from work when we went on vacation so air travel was usually the choice especially for the shorter Christmas breaks. We usually took the ships in summer.
My earliest memory of flight was on a turboprop airliner. This was a Philippine Airlines (PAL) Hawker Siddeley HS 748. My first on a jet plane was on a BAC 111 on the same route and the same airline. There were no competition then for domestic air travel. Following are the photos of these two aircraft that were the workhorses of PAL until the 1980s.
The fascination with flight and aircraft included a dream of experiencing supersonic flight. The only ones that time were the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144. The Tupolev had a rather short service with the last commercial flight in the late 1970s. Also, the politics at the time meant it was highly improbable that I could have a trip that involved this plane. The Concorde had trans-Atlantic flights and I also dreamt about traveling around the world. I thought maybe I can save up for a one-way trip between Europe and the US. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came up. My first international flight was in 1996 when I rode on a Boeing 747 from Manila to Narita. I did eventually travel to the US and Europe but these were after the Concorde was decommissioned. That was probably mainly due to the following incident in this article:
Cloudberg, A. (August 29, 2021) “Death of a Dream: The crash of Air France flight 4590,” Medium, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/death-of-a-dream-the-crash-of-air-france-flight-4590-84c8a9e6c74a [Last accessed: 9/1/2021]
Will there be supersonic services in the future? Probably not. However, the aircraft designs of the future should satisfy ones needs when traveling on these planes. One just wonders how much air travel will change due to Covid-19.
I haven’t been on a plane since February 2020. That is almost one year next month. I have friends though who have traveled by air recently. They had to follow certain protocols before departing and upon arrival at their destination. These include testing for the virus and observing quarantine especially upon their return to Metro Manila and prior to returning to their respective homes. Fortunately, all have been testing negative for Covid-19 and were able to come home safely.
Here is an interesting article on air travel, particularly how airlines and airports are handling passengers during this time when processes need to consider the prospects of getting infected by Covid-19:
Marshall, A. (January 21, 2021) “The Art and Science of Boarding an Airplane in a Pandemic,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/art-science-boarding-airplane-pandemic/ [Last accessed: 1/26/2021]
I am anxious about being required to travel for a project we are currently doing for a major city in Mindanao. While our clients have been very understanding about our health concerns, it might be inevitable for some of us in the project team to travel by March 2021 to present the findings and recommendations of our study. I will continue to update myself about travel guidelines in preparation for that likely travel.
Here are the guidelines for the Aviation Sector. My only comment here is that many people are anxious about when they can travel again, particularly to other parts of the country mainly for business or to go home (e.g., many students have been stranded in the cities where they go to school and away from their hometowns). Part of this anxiety is the thinking that airfares will increase significantly as airlines are forced to reduce capacities for their aircraft to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Gone, probably, are the discount fares like the Piso fare promos.
Related to this, I have received emails from 4 airlines I frequently used – Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines. All provided updates on their respective efforts to ensure the future air travel will be safe, health-wise. As for the airport terminals, that’s another story…
My friends and I were just talking about inflight meals prior to boarding our Cebu Pacific flights last week. En route to Zamboanga, we didn’t have to get some refreshments for the typically 1.5-hour flight. There were many choices to eat from at NAIA Terminal 3. However, heading back to Manila on a lunchtime flight, we joked about what could be available on the plane. We all had our experiences of ordering items on their menu for flights scheduled at different times of the day (e.g., red eye, last flight) and it always seems as if the airline didn’t have many if not most of what appears on their menu.
Lucky Me cup noodles and pretzels for lunch
To be fair, the airline offers pre-ordered meals that they do deliver inflight. We got pre-ordered meals for our flights to and from Singapore last year. But not everyone would usually avail of this option and there is real demand for inflight meals even if there were just pastries or quickly prepared (i.e., instant) meals. I don’t remember the last time we were able to avail a meal more decent than the cup noodles shown in the photo. In fact, we were curious about the new items they had in the menu that included champorado (chocolate porridge). That was supposed to be available last December 2019 but so far we haven’t had the chance to have it inflight.
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. 🙂
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
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.