This is my first ever trip report, so I welcome your comments and feedback. I've been an avid reader of TRs for some time, and I decided it is only right that I put in some effort and contribute as well. This first TR of mine will cover a recent trip my girlfriend and I took from Manila, Philippines, to Caticlan (Boracay), Philippines on Dec. 30, returning to Manila on Jan. 2. This was one part of a larger trip we took to Asia, so I'm planning on doing several other TRs in the next weeks about other legs of that trip. Anyway, here goes... The details of the MNL-MPH outbound leg are as follows:
December 30, 2007
South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR #021)
Scheduled Departure: 11:00 am (actual 11:15)
Scheduled Arrival: 11:45 am (actual 12:02)
Equipment: Dornier 328 (RP-C6328)
Load Factor: 100%
On the morning of the flight, we arrived at MNL's domestic terminal a little after 8 am in order to give ourselves some extra time. We had made our reservation with SEAIR via e-mail back in July (online booking was not an option at the time) and had done a bank transfer from the States to pay for our tickets. Although SEAIR had confirmed our reservation and had received the payment, we still had to go to the airline's ticket office next to the domestic terminal at MNL to have our tickets issued. Fortunately only one other person was in line ahead of us, and the process only took about 15 minutes. Even better, the exchange rate used in the bank transfer had resulted in an overpayment of about 2,000 pesos (almost US $50), which was refunded to me in cash. A pleasant surprise!
With our paper tickets issued and in hand, we walked next door to the departure part of the terminal. In order to set foot in the terminal building at all, we had to present our passports and tickets. Following this first check, we passed through metal detectors (males in one line, females in another) and both our hand luggage and soon-to-be checked baggage were x-rayed. After clearing security, we found the SEAIR ticket counter, where we presented our paper tickets, checked our suitcases, and received our boarding passes. Next, we each paid the terminal departure fee of 200 pesos (about US $5) and proceeded to the final security checkpoint. The line here was also divided according to male/female and it went very quickly.
After clearing security, we sat down to put our shoes back on and were greeted with the absolutely horrible stench of foot odor from one of the other passengers who had removed his/her shoes for security as well. The odor was actually so vile that one of the security guards opened the giant trash can full of confiscated liquids and searched around until he found a nice bottle of perfume, which he then sprayed thoroughly throughout the vicinity. Several other people noticed the fumes and were laughing along with us.
After this final security check, we arrived in the main departure room with a couple hours to spare. The room was quite small, with just a few little stands and shops, so after a brief look around, my girlfriend and I passed the time reading. Quite a few people visited the little Catholic shrine at the front of the hall to pray before their flights. It was interesting to see this displayed front and center...different than what I am used to in the States or Europe, where the airport chapel, if there is one, tends to be more discreet.
At 11:00 am, the actual scheduled time of departure, our flight was called for boarding. We presented our boarding passes and were directed to a bus on the tarmac, which took us to our waiting aircraft. We took our seats in the first row, right side (seats 1C and 1F), and within 5-10 minutes, the aircraft was full and the door was closed. As we were in the front row, the legroom was actually pretty decent.
After a short taxi to runway 06, we began our quick and powerful take off and climbed out steeply before making a sharp right turn to the south. We climbed through some low clouds and the haze that surrounds Manila, then popped out into brighter sunshine above.
|Climbing out of Manila and heading south with pretty clouds and blue sky.|
We reached our cruising altitude of 15,000 feet and were treated to some beautiful cloud formations and spectacular scenery of the ocean and islands below. My lovely girlfriend, who's dual French-American but was born and raised in Manila, told me that the most beautiful clouds she has ever seen are in the Philippines, especially at sunset. I didn't spend enough time in the Philippines to form an opinion of my own, but I must say the clouds on this flight were certainly beautiful!
|More pretty clouds--and some nice looking islands, too!|
The lone flight attendant, who had been sitting directly in front of us in the jump seat, got up about 20 minutes into the flight and began the beverage service. We each received a small plastic cup of water and two packets of crunchy, roasted peanuts. Not too bad for a 45 minute flight--it was the same or better than one would expect on a similar flight in the States. With the FA out of her jump seat, I snapped a quick pic of the door to flight deck.
|The door leading to the best seats...|
After a cruise of 10 minutes or so, we began our decent into Caticlan. At 11:55, about 40 minutes into the flight, the Captain announced we were descending through 5,000 feet, and our first view of the island of Panay came into view out the right side of the airplane.
|Lining up for RWY 06 at Caticlan.|
We made a sharp left turn and lined up for the approach to RWY 06 at Caticlan. This approach provides a thrilling arrival over the beach, and we sped over the sand and touched down quite firmly on the short runway before slowing down enough to pull a u-turn at the opposite end. After a short taxi to the terminal area, the props came to a stop and we de-planed and headed toward the terminal.
|Our bird deplaning at Caticlan.|
Our bags arrived a few minutes later and we were ushered to a waiting van which took us to the boat dock for the final trip across the short straight to the island of Boracay.
January 2, 2008
South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR #022)
Scheduled Departure: 11:35 am (actual 11:40)
Scheduled Arrival: 12:20 am (actual 12:30)
Equipment: Dornier 328 (RP-C9328)
Load Factor: 100%
After a great couple of days in Boracay, it was time to head back to Manila to catch our flight later that evening to Hong Kong. After a short van ride from our hotel, a 10 minute boat trip across the straight, and another short van ride, we arrived at the Caticlan airport around 10:45 am---plenty early for our 11:35 flight out of this small airport.
|Checking in at Caticlan for the flight back to Manila.|
After passing through the security screening (just one check here, as opposed to a total of two in Manila), we found the small SEAIR check-in counter and received our boarding passes. Our checked suitcases weighed in at 20 kg each---over the 18 kg limit---meaning we had to pay a small excess baggage fee. I don't think of a 20 kg bag as being especially over-weight, but since the fee was so minimal, I didn't really mind.
Next, we paid the small terminal fee of 10 Pesos each (around 25 cents $US) and proceeded to the waiting room. There we had a great view of the ramp with quite a bit of action with aircraft from SEAIR, Asian Spirit, and a couple of general aviation light twins. While waiting for our inbound aircraft to arrive, my girlfriend pointed out what appeared to be a repair job being performed on the wing of an Asian Spirit DHC-7. Quite literally, it involved a couple of guys on some scaffholding and a roll of duct tape. Oh well, must not have been too serious, right!?
The inbound SEAIR flight arrived around 11:20 and turn-around was quick--we boarded at 11:30.
|Across the ramp and toward our aircraft--a very generic paint scheme.|
As we climbed aboard, we were greeted by the same flight attendant that we had on the inbound flight to Caticlan 3 days before. She recognized us and welcomed us back. This time we were in seats 3C and 3F, on the right-hand side. Boarding was complete within a few minutes and the pilots quickly started the right engine, even before the door was closed. We taxied out to the end of Rwy 6, pulled a u-turn, and lined up on the centerlinel.
|U-turn at the end of RWY 06 before lining up for blast-off.|
Once again, the take off roll was fast and we lifted off steeply at first before the nose lowered to a more moderate attitude as we climbed out over the beach.
|Climbing out over the beach.|
We climbed through some lower overcast before popping out into brighter skies.
|A rather ratty looking engine casing.|
The flight attendant soon came on and informed us that we had reached our cruise altitude of 16,000. She then began the onboard service, which consisted of a moist towellette, snack mix, and orange juice. Again, nothing to complain about, especially on a short hop like this.
|Orange juice-like drink, crunchy nuts, and a moist towel--well, more than one would get on many US flights!|
I passed time during the short cruise by chatting with my girl and staring at the massive blades spinning just a few feet away from us on the other side of my window. Pretty amazing, really. Before long, we started our descent and passed over the southern portion of Luzon, south of Manila. Next we crossed the southern areas of the city before making a left turn as the airport came into view.
|Descending into Manila, with the airport visible just in front of the prop.|
We pulled a couple more tight turns, this time back to the right, and lined up for the RWY 13 approach.
|Short final for MNL.|
We touched down quite firmly, turned off the runway and made our way to the domestic terminal. Deplaning was quick (as I said, we were in the 3rd row) and we walked the short distance across the tarmac to the terminal. Our checked baggage arrive within 5 minutes or so. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience flying to/from Manila and Boracay. And no complaints about SEAIR. A very nice little airline!
Hope you all enjoyed this TR!