I fail at packing lightly. Knowing that I will be flying in a plane full of Filipinos who are no doubts bringing home heaps of pasalubongs, I still tried my luck at having an excess of 5 kilos for my check in luggage.
My big luggage had a Twister DVD board game, Lundby Doll House accessories, Shrek playing cards, girly bags, some clothes, toiletries, a painting, several blocks of chocolates and 5 kilos of frozen turkey thigh fillet. My hand carry trolley bag contains my Pinky carrying case, more chocolates, more Lundby, a couple more clothes and a bag of potato chips. In my shoulder bag, I have two books, an old Starbucks planner, Viktor (my backpack) and my external hard drive. Yup, I was definitely pushing my luck.
The first thing the check-in lady noticed was my big shoulder bag. It was too big, she said. If I’m bringing it onboard with me, the total for the two bags shouldn’t be more than 8 kilos. My trolley alone was 9 kilos. After removing stuff and checking the weight (and failing to go below 8 kilos), the lady finally suggested that I use my backpack instead of the heavy trolley bag. After moving my stuff around, the final weight was at 6 kilos.
My big bag, of course, went over as well. She wouldn’t let me pass with my 25.5 kilo luggage (though I was able to get away with it on the flight from Manila). I took out two frozen turkeys, and ended up with a respectable 20.5 kilos. It felt weird to be travelling so lightly.
After receiving a nod of approval from the check in lady, she finally hands me my boarding pass. A quick glance tells me I’m seated at 17G. My only thought is whether it’s a middle or an aisle seat. I hope it’s an aisle seat.
Bidding goodbye to my sister and her family (who came with me at check-in to take home whatever excess I have), I made my way into immigration. It was quick and painless; I am once again stamped out of Australia. I had almost an hour before boarding and passed the time by deciding whether to snack on macadamia and almonds or salted cashew. The cashew won.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, we are now ready to board Philippine Airlines flight PR212. Travellers transiting from Sydney can board on the right-hand line and passengers from Melbourne board on the left-hand line. Business class passengers can board anytime at your leisure.
I made my way to the left-hand line, wondering why the other passengers are carrying a green-bordered boarding pass, while I hold a blue one. The thought quickly leaves me as I pass through the final check. Stepping on board the aircraft, I show the flight attendant my boarding pass. Straight this way and turn right, she said. We boarded at the front end of the aircraft, and had to pass through business class. Lucky buggers, I thought. Mindlessly walking through the business class, not really paying attention to the seat numbers, I was stopped by a flight attendant who saw my assigned seat number.
“This is your seat Ma’m,” she said as she pointed to seat 17G in business class.
*blink blink* Holy crap.
With a big smile, I settled down in my seat and read the menu so I can give the attendant my dinner choice. Not long after, everyone was in their seat — even on the seats reserved for the flight attendants. We were overbooked and unless four passengers willingly gave up their seats the plane would not be taking off. Volunteers will be upgraded to business class, they said. Only one man made a move to stand up.
Ten minutes passed and nobody else moved. the flight attendants are starting to get agitated, as the purser, the captain and the ground staff point fingers on who to blame. They talked to a couple more passengers, and managed to convince two more to take the next flight. Only one more seat, and we can go. More minutes passed. It was almost two o’clock in the morning. We were supposed to take off at 12:20 am. We heard applause coming in from the back and moving in to the front. A family of three gave up their seats; we can now proceed with our flight to Manila.
Mabuhay class is actually pretty nice. It’s not as polished as Singapore Airline’s, but the food is comparable, and the ice cream, heaps better. (Singapore Airlines served green tea ice cream, which I cannot stand. PAL served vanilla, which is one of my favorites.) The extra legroom, seat width, and personal entertainment system certainly made for a very comfortable long haul flight.
After almost 12 hours (from the time I arrived at Tullamarine), I finally made it to Manila. I was welcomed with long lines at the immigration, people getting special treatment, mountains of balikbayan boxes, exhorbitantly priced airport taxis and heavy traffic. I love you, my Manila. I will always come home to you.