PinoyXPat

A Pinoy Expatriate’s Insane Musings

Archive for the ‘Airlines’ Category

Philippine Senate: No Better Than A Boy’s Club Or Fraternity

Posted by Marvin on December 3, 2007

This early, the fallout from Trillanes’ criminal act is revealing a lot about the character and principles (or lack of it) of the Philippine Senate. Such a blatant act unbecoming of a senator of the Republic surely demands attention from the Senate? NOT!

The Senate, who often projects an aura of morality (which I do not buy), is in the limelight as one of their very own members tried to destroy the very Republic they serve. You would expect that the Senate will throw the proverbial book at Trillanes or at least issue resolutions condemning his acts to the high heavens. Consider these facts:

  • They are more than willing to issue condemnations on foreign governments for the “scandals” that they’ve investigated e.g. North Rail, the NBN issue etc.
  • They have spent millions of taxpayer money on “flavor of the month” scandal investigations (presumably in aid of legislation – but more likely IN AID OF RE-ELECTION) with perennial “imbestigadors” like Lacson and Cayetano at the helm.
  • They have even spent legislative time to provide Philippine citizenship to foreigners. (See this post.)

Surely the honorable senators will crack the whip on their neophyte colleague’s indiscretions read: crimes…Right?

DEAD WRONG!!!!

Case in point:

  • Senator Manuel Villar (the Senate President himself) said that an investigation by the Senate on Trillanes was not a priority and that the courts should be given jurisdiction over the issue. And yet, they’ve investigated other so-called “scandals” which also involved supposed criminal acts covered by the courts before. What’s so special about this one…except for the fact that they will be investigating their fellow senator?
  • Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.  and a number of opposition senators has even said that an investigation would not prosper. He wants the courts to decide on the consequences of Trillanes’ action. And yet if the issue revolves around the government or the administration, mas malakas ba sa busina ng tren ng PNR ang sigaw nitong taong ito.
  • Instead of condemning and investigating Trillanes, a cadre of senators composed of Manuel Villar, Mar Roxas, Benigno Aquino III, and Ramon Revilla Jr. filed separate resolutions calling for an investigation into the media arrests after the police assault on the Manila Peninsula. Inuna pa ang reklamo ng media! Kasalanan ng media kaya sila inaresto! Masyadong gahaman sa ratings at masyadong reklamador ang mga nasa media. They were asked to leave and yet chose to stay – so they have no right to cry foul! Aba 2008 pa lang…namumulitika na si Villar at Roxas! Masyadong ganid sa kapangyarihan at gustong maging presidente.

What the hell does this all mean?

In simple terms, the Senate doesn’t have the balls to chastise or penalize a colleague. It doesn’t have the guts to stand for what is right – instead effectively supporting their boy by doing nothing.

The only ones asking for an investigation are Senators Santiago and Pangilinan.

Talo niyo pa ang mga gang at fraternities! Instead of my brother, right or wrong….You are chanting: “My fellow senator, right or wrong…”

You disgusting maggots! I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid dog…

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Posted in Airlines | 6 Comments »

Jaunting Through Europe No. 2: A VERY Long Haul…

Posted by Marvin on October 19, 2007

Travelling across oceans and continents have always been easy for me…I was always on official company business ergo travelling on either First or Business Class. Being the typical Pinoy (i.e. cheap but not Genuine Ilocano cheap), I wouldn’t dare buy Business Class tickets at exorbitant prices for our vacation. Ever the cheapskate, I opted to go coach or Economy and used my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer frequent flyer miles to ensure that it will be a minimal cash outlay situation.

I contacted the San Francisco office of Singapore Airlines in order to book the flights to and from Europe. We chose Paris, France as our entry and exit gateway. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines doesn’t operate flights from San Francisco into Europe – so they booked me on their Star Alliance partner airlines United and Lufthansa. I’ve used both airlines and I must say that the gruff and stern Lufthansa is much, much better than United in almost every aspect of operating an airline. Take the case of flight attendants – Lufthansa has smart and average-looking flight attendants (still light-years away from the Singapore Girl of Singapore Airlines). United on the other hand is manned by rude crones – flight attendants with an attitude and for whom the term “customer service” doesn’t seem to exist. These are the type of attendants that people emigrate to avoid. Suwerte pa pala tayo sa mga tanders na flight attendants ng Philippine Airlines…

Luckily for us, we got Lufthansa bookings. It cost me 50,000 frequent flyer miles and another 50,000 frequent flyer miles for my wife. I was expecting the fiscal damage to be slight. Little did I realize that redemption bookings across partner airlines carry some huge fees. I was charged around US$ 600 for our tickets – ostensibly for fees and taxes. Oh, well…This is the price of avoiding United…

A few days before our flight, I checked the Lufthansa website for information on their Economy class. I must admit that I’ve been flying Lufthansa for years but I never bothered to take a peek at the Economy section. Being one of the largest airlines in Europe and a pillar of the Star Alliance network, I was expecting the same type of creature comforts as that of Singapore Airlines. I missed the mark by more than a mile…and this was proven by my experience during the flight. Let’s look at it with greater scrutiny:

SEATS

Lufthansa’s Economy Class seats are like your average coach seat in any other airline – with average pitch and seat width. Nothing outstanding and nothing missing either…EXCEPT for the in-seat video screen. The seats have NO video entertainment screens whatsoever…The only form of video entertainment are the overhead CRT monitors which show canned programs. Almost every other major airline in the world has already migrated to in-seat video-on-demand monitors (pioneered by the way by Singapore Airlines) except for Lufthansa…Batong-bato tuloy kami…Imagine sitting in your seats for 11 hours without anything to watch or straining your neck watching Mr. Bean on the overhead monitor! Lufthansa issued a pronouncement that they will start offering in-seat video-on-demand for their Economy Class passengers starting November 2007. Gee great…You’re only late by four (4) years or so…

TIP: Be nice to the check-in counter staff. Smile and be polite…even drop in a few words in German like “Danke!” (“Thank You”). If you’re nice, you could probably request for a nice seat like a bulkhead seat of seats near the emergency exits where the seats have more legroom.

GRADE: Poor

ENTERTAINMENT

As mentioned above, the entertainment system is basically crap. They issue out plasticky, translucent head phones. The audio selection is nothing to crow about and the overhead monitor only showed The Simpsons Movie and Mr. Bean On Holiday…Things to watch out for: The head phones are fragile…I had to ask for a replacement as one of the ear phones is not working.

GRADE: Poor

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FOOD

European airlines have never been known for good food service. Lufthansa is no exception. You get either a vegetarian pasta meal or a chicken meal. Again, nothing extraordinary…

GRADE: So-so

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BAGGAGE HANDLING

This is where I would give Lufthansa an “F”, a failing mark, essentially “kalabasa”… The reason is this: We arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport giddy as you can ever be. Our baggage took an extraordinarily long time to appear on the carousel. I checked in a small (carry-on size), four-wheeled hardcase trolley I bought in 2006. My luggage came out of the carousel in pieces…The hardcase shell has been ripped to shreds!! Fortunately, the hardcase has a lining which basically prevented the contents from spilling out…Otherwise, I would be picking my checkered boxer shorts all over Charles de Gaulle’s arrival area. Here is where things started to get worse and my blood pressure started rising to explosive levels:

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I am a KrisFlyer PPS Club Member which in a nutshell means that I am entitled to Gold Member status in any Star Alliance airline even if I am travelling on Economy Class. Just one of the perks of travelling on countless business class flights. Gold Member passengers’ bags are tagged with “PRIORITY” labels and are supposed to come out of the carousel first and should be treated with an extra level of care – supposedly. My bag has been tagged as “PRIORITY” and yet it came out of the carousel last – and it was mangled beyond repair – to boot.

I immediately went to the Lufthansa Luggage Service desk in the arrival area and reported the incident. They prepared an incident report and asked some details on my flight and luggage. I asked them for a temporary bag wherein I could transfer my clothes. They said they have no replacement luggage on hand.

STRIKE ONE: I asked them for any other bag which I could use. The lady manning the desk said they only have a box or a paper bag…My God, they are going to give me a box for my clothes…Humihingi ako ng bag hindi ng balikbayan box!

STRIKE TWO: I told them to just tape up the bag so that it will not burst open – just to tide me over to the hotel. I demanded a replacement for the luggage. They gave me a card with an address – their local luggage repair/supplier in Paris. I then asked them to contact their supplier for the replacement luggage and send it to my hotel. The lady told me that they don’t deliver to hotels and that I have to go there in person. What the fu…dge!!! I am the aggrived party and you are asking me to do all the work for something which you – as the carrier – is totally responsible for!

STRIKE THREE: I told them than I will not do that as it will take time away from my vacation – they have to find a way to address the issue. The lady was a bit stunned and probably was not expecting a Filipino to be so assertive. She told me that I can buy a bag myself and then submit the receipt for reimbursement. I asked them where I can submit the receipt. The answer they gave me: I have to mail all the documents to their Customer Service Office in Dublin, Ireland…What the @#%?!!!! Ipapa-mail niyo pa sa akin ang punyetang resibo?

AND YOU’RE OOOOOUTTTTA HEREEEE!!!!

I intend to lodge a formal complaint to Lufthansa on this. Their service level – for lack of a better analogy – sucks literally like an Electrolux vacuum cleaner (with apologies to Electrolux)….They don’t know who they’re messing with. I am the airline passenger from hell and I will not let this pass…

So…I encourage everyone to think twice before using Lufthansa. If you have the choice, always pick an Asian airline (like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and the like – I wouldn’t recommend Plane Always Late a.k.a. Philippine Airlines) over a U.S. or European airline. Emirates is also a very good airline.

What a flight!

Posted in Airlines, Links, Travel | 5 Comments »

A Rhetorical Moral Question…

Posted by Marvin on March 23, 2007

I’m sitting here at the Singapore Airlines‘ First Class Lounge at San Francisco International Airport. “YES”…You read it correctly and “NO”…I’m NOT travelling on First Class. I’m on a Business Class flight to Manila (“Yipee!…Makakauwi na rin!”) and Bangkok. “NO”…Lambda employees like me (as in lambdaa i.e. a long, long way from being an alpha employee and being on top of the corporate food chain) are not entitled to First Class. And “YES” – I’m on business travel courtesy of the company. The lady at the reception directed me to the First Class Lounge because I am a PPS Club member…Hayyyyyy…One of the few “perks” of travelling I guess….

I wasn’t intending to write anything as I am dead tired. My day started at 5:00 AM due to a conference call and will not be over until I close my eyes and sleep on the plane. Estimated time of departure? A mind-numbing 1:05 in the morning!

In my semi-lucid, drunken-like stupor, I tried a short snooze. Unfortunately, I am rudely interrupted from my reverie by these two blasted “bumbays” who sat right next to me. Thank the high heavens! My overly sensitive odoriferous glands failed to detect any trace of curry in the air…“Buti na lang…Kung hindi, mauubusan ako ng hininga…” However, they started chatting away in their distinctive loud, “bumbay” accent and never stopped…They are still chatting away as I write this scathing description. Pag minamalas talaga…

This post is not about “bumbay”-bashing. Obnoxious as they are with their inborn chips on their shoulders i.e. they have been brutalized by the British for so long that they have to try to be the best in everything – even if they’re not – their stock have risen over the decades. These guys  always have something to prove i.e. any MBA student’s worst nightmare. Always raising their hands and blabbering away even if they mouth only nonsensical interpretations of business cases. Gusto lang talagang dumaldal para masabing nakapg-contribute… A wretched cultural trait I must admit. But look at where they are right now as a nation – an emerging economic powerhouse….

Back to the real point of this post: Observing these “bumbays” made we wonder about us Filipinos. With the elections just around the corner, the latest surveys indicate that the candidates in the “Magic 12” are in my own estimates and humble opinion: a bunch of putrid, incompetent, imbecelic, self-serving, revolting, poor-excuses-for-a-Filipino, may-they-rot-in-Hell, sanctimonious pricks. Sad to say, the majority of Filipinos are not sufficiently educated to know this fact. If we don’t break the cycle of bad governance, we will forever be left behind in the global economy. Either that or I am the one who is a putrid, incompetent, imbecelic, self-serving, revolting, poor-excuse-for-a-Filipino, may-I-rot-in-Hell, sanctimonious prick.

Assuming, just for the sake of argument, that I am not insane and it is really the majority of Filipinos who are set on electing low-lifes into office who are insane – I would like to propose this question:

Given the seeming hopelessness of the country’s plight, would you be willing to turn a blind eye and allow these candidates to be cheated? Would you save the ignorant masses from their ignorance by doing the immoral?

Did you secretly cheered when FPJ was supposedly cheated in 2004? Assuming, again, for the sake of argument that he was cheated – did you feign ignorance and allowed that one to slide? 

Moralists have often countered with the old adage that “Two wrongs do not make a right…” But then again, moralists tend not to live in the “real” world where there is white on one end, black on the other and a million varying shades of gray in between.

How would you “answer” this rhetorical moral question?

Posted in Airlines, Peeve | 1 Comment »

From Manila To America (Part 2)

Posted by Marvin on August 11, 2006

Once on board the plane, it was a ho-hum trip to Hong Kong.

Come on now, how many things could happen from Manila to Hong Kong? It’s a 90 minute flight. We’ve barely started to eat the prepared meals in Business Class when the pilot said in his matter-of-factly British accent: “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are about to commence our descent into Hong Kong…” It was so short I could only watch a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation rerun on the onboard entertainment system.

Upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, we headed straight to the Cathay Pacific’s The Pier Business Class Lounge. I must be truthful about this: I heard that Hong Kong International Airport was awarded the “Best Airport” award recently. What were those judges smoking when they came up with that decision? That award should have been given to Singapore Changi Airport. Here are my Top 5 reasons why Changi will kick Hong Kong’s ass on any given weekday and twice on Sundays:

  • Just because you’re big, that doesn’t mean that you’re good. What’s with the Hong Kong government? They built their airport by levelling Chep Lap Kok Island and building an extensive road network from the island to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. They erected the Tsing Ma Bridge – the longest road and rail suspension bridge in the world. The terminal building is the largest singularly enclosed space in the world. And the Guiness Book litany goes on and on…Hello, a business traveller doesn’t need the world’s biggest airport if it’s the same as saying that it will take 20 minutes of walking (while carrying my bags) to get from the ticket counter to the gate. Sure there are walking sidewalks and there’s a train (you have to descend three floors to get there via escalator or a single elevator) – but these are marginal improvements. Could Hong Kong be compensating for its, ehem, shortcomings? On the other hand, Singapore Changi is just right in size and is not taxing on the business traveller.
  • Airports live and die by the efficiency of their immigration and customs checks. Every international traveller will have to pass by immigration and customs in order to get to their boarding gates. Their experience at these checks could make or break their days. Singapore Changi has one of the fastest immigration and custom checks in the world. A friend of mine once asked: “How will they know who the criminals and smugglers are if people pass through so quickly during these checks?” Answer: In Singapore, they don’t pick you up at the counter. They pick you up when you are near the door or outside the airport.  Once caught, they whisk you away where sunlight will not reach you…Then they put the fear of God back into you… Hehehe…Remember that American delinquent Michael Fay? And what about Hong Kong? Queues are long and people are grumpy. Enough said…
  • Punctuality is a virtue. People hate being late. Time is money. People hate losing money. Singapore Changi Airport has a strict policy of closing boarding gates 10 minutes before departure. Singapore Airlines has taken this even further by mandating that boarding commence (according to rows of course) 60 minutes before departure. If you are not there at the gate on time, they sorry buddy. You’re not flying today. The airport has a KPI/metric of 12 minutes from the time the aircraft docks at the gate to the time the first bags come out of the luggage carousel! Tell me of any other airport who can top that…
  • If you want people to use your airport, make it easy on them. Singapore is the transit capital of the world because the airport makes it so easy on travellers to pass through, spend their layover time productively and rest in relative comfort. If ever you’re transiting through Singapore, you can enjoy a myriad of amenities right there at the airport. There is a cactus garden, an orchid garden, a koi (Japanese carp) pond and a swimming pool. There is a chapel/prayer room as well as an entertainment center where you can watch movies, sports, news etc. There are places to rest and lounge around all over plus free Internet access is everywhere. You can even spend a couple of hours touring the city for free via bus.

And the Number 1 reason Singapore Changi Airport can kick Hong Kong’s ass is:

  • Changi Airport doesn’t consider itself an airport! Several years back, I was working on a knowledge sharing project in Singapore. We were very fortunate to visit Singapore Changi Airport and interview one of its vice-presidents. When we ask him why Changi has consistently been selected as the best airport in the world, he gave us a shocking answer. “We do not consider ourselves as people running an airport. Changi is a shopping mall. The airport is just the means to get customers into our stores. Everything we do is driven by our desire to make customers comfortable.” This is a phenomenal revelation. Changi is being run like a marketing company and this is the secret to its success.

After an hour or so at the Lounge, we prepared to board our flight. Upon submitting my boarding pass, the lady said: “Here is your new seat number.” No explanation whatsoever. I had to put two and two together to realize that I’ve been upgraded to First Class. When I asked if my wife was upgraded as well, the answer is a curt: “No.” I told her that I was booked with my wife and I wouldn’t change seats if it meant that we will be sitting apart. She had a stunned, I-don’t-know-what-to-do look on her face she asked me to wait. Well, five minutes later and I just exploded by preaching to the lady in charge of the ground staff. Bloody hell! I never asked to be upgraded and now that I opted not to partake of it – you’re going to give me a hard time? In the end, I got my old seat back.

Just another reason why I wish I was aboard Singapore Airlines…

Posted in Airlines, Links, Peeve, Rave | 1 Comment »

Airlines, Women’s Luggage & Travel Peeves

Posted by Marvin on August 1, 2006

It is August 01 and I still have 7 days to go before I shake Philippine dust off the soles of my feet. Hmmm…I guess it is now time to PANIC!!!

A word of advice to would-be travellers: Never underestimate the amount of stuff that a woman can bring along on a trip. Am I right, men of the world? I have yet to meet a woman with a streamlined wardrobe like the typical male. Not to mention the little stuff which we Filipinos have eloquently christened as “abubot”. My fellow linguists, don’t even ask me to attempt to determine the etymology of such a word except that there might be some linkage to the Filipino word “aburido” (a very mild form of psychological breakdown of the Filipino male). Suffice to say that the proverbial kitchen sink may be part of a woman’s luggage.

Given such a challenge, you’d better have the right airline working on your side. In all of my travels, I can authoritatively state that the best airline in the world is none other than Singapore Airlines. Why?

  • It has one of the youngest fleets in the world. I have yet to see an old, grimy plane bearing the Singapore Airlines logo. Young planes, safer flights.
  • If property specialists have the mantra: “Location, location, location”, airlines have their own chant: “Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.” No other airline comes close.
  • Service is impeccable. What I like about Singapore Airlines is the fact that they treat every customer as a VIP. I’ve travelled in Economy, Raffles/Business Class and First Class on SQ and I’ve always gotten the same treatment. Although sometimes I feel that other passengers do not deserve such service. Oh common, you know what I’m talking about. We Filipinos can be be really obnoxious travellers. You don’t believe me? Have you ever sat next to a “kabayan” who:
    • Upon taking his seat, immediately calls the flight attendant (like someone calling a waitress) and asks for wine, whiskey, beer or champagne? Don’t forget the deck of cards – even if the guy never plays with them while on board (gagawing pasalubong or souvenir). And the plane hasn’t even left the gate!
    • Finds it his/her duty to tell you the story of her life even if you really couldn’t care less. To be blunt about it, finding out if Nene kissed and made up with Aling Menang inspite of Mang Isko’s heartless remarks is not high on my list of discussion points.
    • Sounds like he’s shouting from the top of his lungs? The most common complaint I receive from foreigners about Filipinos is this: WE ARE A BUNCH OF LOUD MOUTHS. We talk like we’re spurned Irish banshees. We really should be more mindful about our behaviour especially if we are in public.
    • Doesn’t follow the mobile phone rule? The Safety Demonstration Video has just finished playing with the admonition that mobile phones should be switched off. Lo and behold, you kabayan’s phone started ringing like crazy i.e. Nokia’s signature ring tone set at ascending volume.
    • And the list goes on and on…
  • Flying on SQ is like being in Singapore. Everything is squeaky clean, everything works and is in order and the plane is, almost always, never late.
  • It has a great Frequent Flyer Program i.e. Krisflyer. I’m a Priority Passenger Service (PPS) cardholder myself.
  • The Singapore Girl. If you’re the type of traveller who like snooty, snobbish and downright rude hags as flight attendants – then Singapore Airlines is not the airline for you.

Ah yes…SQ…my beloved SQ. What fond memories we have. Lately however, I’ve been using Cathay Pacific more and more for my trips to California (we are booked on Cathay Pacific for our trip next week). Don’t get me wrong, Cathay Pacific is also a great airline – I’m also an AsiaMiles and Marco Polo Club member. It’s just that I’ve been using Singapore Airlines for so long…

And where does this leave the venerable flag carrier Philippine Airlines? If I started my rant against this dismal airline hen this post will run out of space. Suffice to say that our rogues’ gallery of obtuse and imbecilic politicians e.g. Erap, Ping, Gringo, Loi, Jinggoy, Chiz, Kit, Frank, Tita, Meldy, Imee, Bishop etc.  – people who have left our beloved country in ruins for their own selfish reasons – and the flag carrier deserve each other. May their lift decrease and drag increase as they fly across the sky.

Posted in Airlines, Peeve | 1 Comment »