The post for this trip will be dived into four parts:
1. The flights to MNL
2. My Manila hotels
3. Dancing in Manila
4. The flights home, including Korean Air A380 business class
1. The Flights From CLT – MNL
After never having visited the Philippines, this was my second trip to Manila in two months. I had such a good time on the first trip I took advantage of last-minute availability using Delta (DL) frequent flier miles for this trip. I booked the outbound in coach and the return in business class for 105,000 miles.
The primary purpose of this trip was to hit some of the dancing spots I missed the first time around and to catch up with some of the folks I met on the first trip. I had booked the trip for early March but changed it when I realized that would conflict with the Charlotte Salsa Festival.Friday night party at Charlotte Salsa Festival
The workshops and parties for that event were fantastic as usual. One of the nice things about being a Diamond Medallion in the DL frequent-flier program is being able to change frequent-flier tickets up to 72 hours before a flight without incurring any change fees or penalties.
I was upgraded to first class, seat 5B, on a 757-200 on the short hop from Charlotte (CLT) to Atlanta (ATL). During the three-hour layover in ATL before the flight to Seoul (ICN), I took advantage of the facilities of the E Concourse SkyClub to shower and shave. That always makes me more relaxed and comfortable for a long flight especially if I will be in the coach cabin. International flights booked through DL are not upgradeable except with a Global Upgrade Certificate that diamonds get four of each year, or some high-priced coach fares can be upgraded with Skymiles. And GUCs or mileage upgrades cannot be used with frequent-flier tickets.
Arriving in ATL I went to the DL Skyclub in terminal E since Korean Air (KE) 36 was departing from gates E1 and E3. Business and first class use E1 which leads to the upper deck and the E3 jetway leads to the lower deck for the economy passengers. First-class passengers then must go down the stairs to the first-class section , which is at the front of the lower deck.
The E skyclub is very spacious. The bar and snack area is actually bigger than the club in the new F terminal, which serves most international flights. The gates in the F terminal cannot handle A380s; so these flights leave from the E terminal. Both E and F clubs have shower rooms that I always like to use to freshen up before a long flight.
The flight to ICN was on a Korean Air (KE) A380. From the seat map it looked like a full flight but at least I had an aisle seat. At the gate I recognized one of the gate agents from when I had spent a lot of time in ATL a few years ago.
I always ask the agent if there is a better seat available or if there is anyway to get upgraded to business class. She told me my row was actually open. Cool! All I had to do was raise the armrests and remove the blankets and pillows on the empty seats, and voila I had the rare lie-flat coach seat:)
One of the nice features on KE A380s are the exterior camera views you can get on the video system. There is a camera in the nose, tail and the underside of the aircraft. This is our takeoff in serious IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) from the tail camera view.
KE has a pretty good economy product and service. It provides slippers to coach passengers, and the bibimbop served in economy is almost identical to that dish in business class, including real silverware. A drink service preceded the meal service. It was good to have extra room to stretch out since KE does not offer economy seats with extra legroom. Still the seat pitch is 33-34 inches only about an inch less than economy comfort seats that would cost a couple of hundred bucks to “upgrade” to on DL.
I met a couple of flight attendants who knew Jeong Hyerin, the attendant in the business-class lounge on my flight in January. One of the attendants was still in a probationary period. Her scarf was white while the other flight attendants had blue scarfs. She said KE puts all FAs through a two-year probationary period after they complete training. KE has FA training that is more than twice as long as training for US airlines.
After landing in ICN, I went to the KE Prestige Class Lounge near gate 6. Being a Diamond Medallion on DL gives me Skytean Elite Plus status and includes access to business-class lounges when flying on a Skyteam airline. This is a great benefit since these lounges always have good food and drinks available as well as offering free wifi, showers and refuge from the hustle and bustle of international airports.
The flight from ICN to MNL , KE623, was a 777-300. The flight was pretty full, so no lie -flat seat this time. But the flight was only 3 and 1/2 hours. KE flies its 777-300 in a 3-4-3 seating arrangement, the same as on its A380.
For dinner I had my favorite – the bibimbap.