Leaving the Philippines on PAL – One Way!

If It Can Happen, It Will Happen.

We purchased our One-Way tickets online through the Philippine Airlines website as we always do. I logged in with our Mabuhay Club number and booked two seats for a flight to Manila and then on to Guam. We’ve done it this way several times now for over three years. I call it the “Annual K-Mart Shopping Run.” Well, my wife likes to think of it that way. It seems I just go along to drive the rental car and keep her company (and honest with multiple shoe purchases). The morning flight departs Calbayog City early at 0650 and arrives in Manila about 0810 (usually it is just about an hour). Our Philippine Airlines flight leaving for Guam is not scheduled to depart Manila until 2205 (that’s 10:05pm for those of you who do not understand the 24 hour clock) and puts us in Guam at about 0330 local Guam time. It’s only a two-hour time difference but can take a full day to get there from where we live in Samar.

We were checked in waiting for the flight to arrive. It seemed like it was taking forever. Nobody bothered to do the FOD walk down on the tarmac (FOD stands for Foreign Objects and Debris) and nobody seemed in any hurry to don any aircraft handler safety gear such as noise abatement head-gear, orange safety vests, or aircraft marshalling equipment. Even the auxiliary power ground-unit hadn’t moved into position. Nothing or nobody was moving. Then came an announcement. “The inbound aircraft from Manila has been delayed due to extra maintenance.” Okay I thought, we don’t need to be in Manila for another 14 hours or so, no problem, we can afford to wait. Fix the problem because it’s better to be safe than sorry, I thought. Another 30 minutes passed and then another announcement. “Due to the required extra maintenance on PAL flight No. 2072, the flight to Manila has been cancelled.” I should have suspected initially that Extra Maintenance” is code speak for the plane is broken and we have no idea what is wrong with it!

Looking at expansion soon!

Airport Expansion Coming Soon!

Not Many Options!

When a travel derailment occurs in the Philippines, and you live in the province, sometimes your options will vary, but time is NEVER on your side. We had a choice of re-booking a flight the following morning but we had that connecting flight from Manila-Guam this same evening. What if we could not get re-booked on that flight tomorrow? Our hotel and rental car accommodations in Guam were all in place. We really needed to hold to the rest of our planned schedule, but how would we get to Manila in time for the 2205L flight? Then PAL announced that there were two contracted vans awaiting any passengers who would be willing to travel to Tacloban for either of two afternoon flights to Manila. Now we had a choice; resked for the following day, or take our chances with a killer van on the road for 3 and a half hours to Tacloban to catch a flight we were not even booked on. After a 15 minute discussion among PAL agents, it was decided to try to book passengers on the Tacloban flight directly from the Calbayog terminal. Will someone just throw another wrench in the fan please! So, we were able to get an actual booking, complete with boarding pass, for the 1430L flight out of Tacloban. It was now about 0830L and we now had 6 hours to reach our new destination. Not even a flat tire would cause us to miss our flight, unless of course we did not have a spare. But hey, no worries, there are only about 150 vulcanizers between Calbayog City and Tacloban. Barring a blow out on the San Juanico Bridge or even worse, engine failure, we should have no problem making our flight. Anyway, with 12 passengers and luggage all fit snugly into a ten passenger van, we hit the road for the provincial capital of Leyte – Tacloban.

Killer Vans.

I curse at them all the time. I swear to myself that someday I will turn around, chase them down, and rip some driver a new, er…. give them a piece of my mind. I always say to my self “The next time I get pushed-off my side of the road on my motorcycle, I’m going after them!” I never do. Now I find myself an insider… a passenger on board – silently cheering the driver on, to pass other vehicles and other killer vans… on a curve… going uphill!  Then I think, “Wait, did I get a frontal lobotomy performed on me and not know it?”  I regained my senses after our driver almost collided with a scooter making a U-turn in a barangay school zone. Our driver issued a prolonged honk at the scooter driver as if it were his fault and the scooter driver honked back even longer as we passed him by at nearly the speed of sound. I really can never figure out why these vans (they are no better than the killer buses) have to drive so fast. We had nearly 6 hours to make a 3.5 hour trek, and we could have done it in a much safer manner. Maybe the driver earns longer nap bonus points before having to make his return trip. Who knows.

Tacloban City Airport

Tacloban City Airport

Tacloban City Airport and a PAL Reward.

We have been to Tacloban many times, but have never had the opportunity to visit the airport. It is much improved since Typhoon Yolanda, and even bigger than I imagined. There are much bigger planes coming and going, mostly Airbus 320’s, to and from Cebu and Manila and other island destinations. We got there about two and a half hours before our flight departed. If this flight happened to be delayed (due to extra maintenance or something), I thought, there were actually two more flights on the schedule which could get us to Manila in time to catch our flight to Guam. I asked the ticketing agent at check-in if I could use my Mabuhay Club Miles for a seating upgrade for our inconvenience, and without as much as checking the computer she responded “Sorry sir, but this flight is booked.” So much for spending the day carousing the Malls in Manila. So much for that Italian lunch we had planned. But not all was lost as PAL provided us with a “refugee” box lunch from Mister Donut which consisted of a scrawny piece of chicken and 2 (yes, TWO!) generous scoops of rice, neatly wrapped in a paper wrapper similar to that found in a Jollibee’s meal. Dessert was a “miniature” Mister Donut (just big enough for a gecko to crawl through). We washed it all down with a bottle of warm water – also provided.

Even More Options – Soon!

Soon, there will be some airline competition in Calbayog City as Cebu Pacific moves in to provide round trip service for the Manila-Calbayog City route on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flights are scheduled to begin February 18, 2017. More information about Cebu Pacific’s flight expansion plan can be found here.

U.S. Navy C40

U.S. Navy C40

We returned to the Philippines using a Space Available flight from Anderson AFB in Guam (a Navy C40) to Clark Air Base in Angeles City. When we eventually returned home to Calbayog City, I found a PAL Satisfaction Survey waiting for me in my email inbox. Since they were kind enough to ask, I thought I would be nice and accept their request for feedback. And because I am retired, I took the extra time necessary to carefully craft a most thoughtful response and I also expressed my sincere and heartfelt gratitude for their excellent choices in their “refugee” meal selection. I also reminded them that their booking system might have a few bugs, because contrary to what the counter agent told me, the business class section was only half-occupied. Have I ever mentioned It’s More Fun in the Philippines?

 

19 thoughts on “Leaving the Philippines on PAL – One Way!

  1. Actually it’s not more fun in the Philippines, and traveling in this country is often a nightmare. We always stay the night before a flight out of Manila, to avoid these types of situations that are common in this country. Yes we have to pay for 1 nights accommodation, but the peace of mind is worth the price.
    It’s really too bad this country cannot get their act together, because what god created here is shear heaven! These Islands could be like Hawaii, but I’m not holding my breath to see this happen anytime soon.

    • I was thinking 15 hours was plenty of time to fly to Manila. Wrong. If this were like Hawaii, we couldn’t afford to live here either! lol It will not happen in my lifetime, I’m sure. Thanks for commenting Marc.

  2. First, I completely agree with Marc’s comment!

    When I read that your CC flight had been cancelled I thought you would likely never catch your Guam connection, but I’m happy it all worked out. Also -I’ve been wondering how dependable that C40 flight is from Guam to Clark. Have you & Teri ever been stranded?

    • We are two for two in the C40 category. It is an unscheduled, Navy mission oriented flight, so you never know. We just got lucky… twice. There was an Air Force C130 leaving earlier that morning and had 9 tentative seats, but upon asking at the passenger service desk, the flight did not take any passengers. I’m glad we did not show up at 0300 for that one. Our roll call was at 1155. We attempted to catch space A to Guam last year from Clark and spend 3 days waiting. We finally went to Manila and purchase tickets.

      • Thanks, Randy. I flew a lot of military standby hops in the old days & sometimes spent days trying before getting out, but sometimes I got lucky as well. It’s great that you got your visa “reset” trip without any big problems. We’re still really enjoying your articles & videos- Thanks!

  3. I got so tired of buses an vans running me of the road that I mounted a slice of bamboo and stuck a ball on the end that protruded beyond my bumper almost 2′ to the left side. So when he pulls out I pull over but threaten to feed him that end of the stick. Not a single one decided to risk the stick. But the police asked me to take it off 3 times, suggesting it was a “hazard”! as if passing directly into oncoming traffic was not.

  4. HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAH Well written mate.

    The killer vans are like that because they get paid per trip ( Rated on location ) Thats why they are always tired, they try to get as many trips in as they can.

      • my wife always says that filipinos have the motto “if you die, you die” when i question their killer driving, crossing the freeway on foot in rush-hour, etc.
        i like yours better 🙂
        and thanks for a very entertaining blog, mate !

  5. If you don’t mind me asking, why not fly round trip? How much is the flight from Calbayog City to Guam (or if booked separately, from Calbayog City to Manila and from Manila to Guam?

    Three years from retirement and I want to know what I am looking at for annual costs to leave the country.

    • We did not fly round trip because we did not want to self-impose any time constraints. We just wanted to take one day at a time and see what happened (footloose and fancy free I think it’s called). If there would have been a convenient Space A flight to Hi, who knows, we might have jumped on it. Anyway, we took a gamble and saved money in the long run with the Space A flight back from Guam. Round trip from Calbayog to Guam would have cost approximately $1,040 just in airfare and because there are no direct routes, the booking would have required a hotel room. So in our case, the return to Clark was only $11 for two box lunches on a comfy Navy C40 and a couple bus tickets from Angeles City to Calbayog totaling about $52, for a travel savings of nearly $400.

  6. I used to fly PAL and UA between MNL-GUM but moved to CEB pacific because its fares are way too cheaper than the two airlines. I always pay about $90 round trip tickets and at one time was around $60. Why not book a flight next time at Cebu pacific. Do you have a budget accomodation you can recommend? Thanks.

    • I looked at CebPac but on short notice, the fares are not much different. Next time I will get tickets well in advance and maybe save some money. In Guam, the most affordable places to stay are the Days Inn and the Wyndham Garden (sister hotel) across the street in Tamuning. We like the Wyndham Garden a little better.

  7. I think Tacloban is the better option as they have PAL/Cebu pac/AA all flying out so if it hits the fan you still have options. Just use Grand Tours and ride the rocky road to nowhere.

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