PR104 MNL to SFO Flight Review (Philippine Airlines)

Since Philippine Airlines is now retiring their Boeing 747s after the Philippines got upgraded back to Category 1 (FAA), I’m doing a flight review with my first and maybe only flight with their 747.

My super awesome bosses at my previous job flew me to our office in  San Francisco last February. The US Visa I had was the first thing that devirginized my passport, then the next one was the departure stamp at NAIA.

As usual, PAL’s San Francisco to Manila flight  was a night flight. I arrived at the airport a little bit earlier than usual since I didn’t want to run into any trouble since it was my first time to fly outside the country.

When I arrived at the airport, I immediately went to the direction of Mabuhay Class check-in counters. One of their friendly staff extended a hand and asked where I’m flying to and I told her San Francisco. She guided me to the check-in counter but I told her I’ll be checking in in the business counter.

Since I was there early, I spent a long time at the Mabuhay Lounge.  I  filled my stomach with some arroz caldo and other stuff at the Mabuhay Lounge since I did not have anything prior to going to the airport. Also tried a handful of stuff, a can of soda and beer for myself since we didn’t start boarding on-time. 

The restroom at the Mabuhay Lounge was nice as well. I had an intimate interaction with the place since the stuff I had did not mix well on my stomach.

Then time for boarding the plane. There was a long queue for the security checks at the gate, then another queue for actually boarding the aircraft. Good thing Mabuhay Class passengers and those with elite frequent flier status had a special lane.

I was seated on the upper deck, 14A. Behind me was the emergency exit. I was welcomed with a welcome drink, and was asked what I wanted for dinner. We were supposed to depart by 10:30pm but for some reason I can’t remember we weren’t pushed back until about 11:15am. I just wanted to sleep by that time but didn’t want to do it until we finally take off – which happened past 11:30pm. As usual, the roar of the engines were orgasmic but not in an NSFW sense.

When we were up in the air, I decided to play with my J seat – trying the different configurations and finding the most comfortable one. It was a nice seat. The only trivial issue I have is that the other controls were hidden under the armrests (where you stow the meal table). I slept but not for long since they started serving our dinner right about that time.

It was my first time to have a ‘real’ in-flight meal that’s why I can’t compare it to others. Personally, it was good – especially the dessert! I love the chocolates that they serve – plus the ice cream!

After dinner, I tried to play a bit with the IFE. Tried to watch Gravity but the copy wasn’t so good. Made me think it was a “CAMRIP” but my brain refused to agree with my gut feel. The selection of movies weren’t that great, especially the music library. The only Filipino pop album was DJP by Daniel Padilla so nevermind. I also had this issue with their so-called in-flight radio. If you switch channels and go back to the previous one (usually the case when you start hearing a song that you don’t like and decide to go back), you have to start all over the same song. I almost memorized Yeng Constantino’s Josephine that time since I kept switching back to Filipino Pop.

I just decided to tune to the real-time flight map and stats. I eventually got tired and slept again. The longest sleep I got was two hours at a time then I would wake up and try to do something else. 12 hours seemed like forever. In the middle of the flight, I got myself some arroz caldo!

Around an hour and a half before landing, I woke up again. Others were already eating their breakfast. One of the cabin crew asked what I wanted for breakfast. While waiting for my food, I filled out the customs declaration form. I got myself some Beef Tapa – and it was good! As usual, it was the dessert that I enjoyed the most.

The last hour of the flight was one of the longest hours in my life. Maybe because I’ve been counting down since we left, or maybe I’m just too excited for San Francisco. There were a lot of thoughts in my mind. It was such an exciting experience since it will be my first time in America, and first time outside the country.

When we were on our final approach, I locked my eyes on the window. I was expecting lots of tall of buildings, but I was partly disappointed. The landing was smooth enough that I only noticed that we were only on the ground when the nose gears touched the ground.

I wanted to visit the cockpit but I was hesitant partly due to fear of rejection. I’m also not sure if there’s an FAA regulation prohibiting civilians to enter the cockpit while docked in the gate.

Upon leaving the aircraft, it was cold but not as cold as I imagined. Proceeded to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) where I was greeted by a long queue. Apparently, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines landed just a few minutes ahead of us.

I tried to connect to the airport’s free wifi and it was blazing fast! I broadcast-ed to the world that I’m in San Francisco via a Foursquare check-in!

After about an hour, it was my turn. I was asked a few questions, had my hand and finger prints and a photo. I was asked to go to a room on on one end of the CBP. There weren’t any instructions on what to do inside the room so I just asked a fellow passenger there. She told me to just put my passport on the trays in front of the immigration officers.

Based on signages inside, I realized that I was up for additional screening (Secondary). I saw some people being called and led to a room. Saw two different instances when someone got out of the room crying, maybe to be deported back to the home country.

At the secondary, I met another Filipino a little bit older than my age. We had a short chat and I discovered that he’s working in the Bay Area on an H1B visa. He also pursued his college degree there on a work visa. That time I realized I did not have to fear much since even someone who keeps going in and out of US gets selected for secondary screening, too.

My name was called, headed to the officer in front. He told me that I’m cleared and I can now get my baggage and leave! Was quick to spot my baggage since almost everyone else got theirs already.

Met with Nick, my boss that time (and one of the best bosses out there). We headed out to the parking area of the terminal. The moment I stepped outside of the terminal itself, the cold breeze caught me in surprise! That’s when I realized the entire airport terminal’s heater was turned on the entire time!

I immediately asked Nick “Does it get colder than this?” and to my relief he told me “That’s about it” and explained to me that it’s been really cold recently. It was 46F (8C) when I arrived there.

Overall, it was a good flight!

Written by

I'm Mikko, an overseas Filipino worker based in Hong Kong.

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