Philippine Airlines' Airbus A330 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Manila come equipped with the carrier's myPAL WiFi service, which not only streams inflight entertainment onto your smartphone or tablet but also lets those devices plus of course laptops jump online. Sadly, this inflight Internet service is far from being a top-flight experience.
Philippine Airlines myPAL WiFi service offers three packages, all capped by how much data you consume rather than how long you stay connected.
- 30 minutes is free, with a 15MB data limit
- one hour will cost US$5, and comes with a 35MB limit
- staying online for the entire flight costs US$20, but with a 150MB cap
All three plans are also restricted to a single device.
Data-based limits are always a challenge for passengers: exactly how much data does it take to view your favourite website, to check your email (inbound file attachments are an unknown quantity in themselves) or fiddle around on Facebook?
At least Philippine Airlines offers a free 30 minute session which is ideal for a quick check of your email or the news, or a fast social media blast. But even the 150MB cap of the US$20 'flight pass' option makes you watch your surfing habits very carefully and focus only on necessary activity because once you gobble up that 150MB the only option is to buy a second flight pass.
As always, and especially in the case of data-capped WiFi plans, we recommend using Web-based email software (to ensure that large unexpected file attachments aren't automatically downloaded) as well as checking that any cloud-based backup software is temporarily disabled.
That said, having signed up for the 'entire flight' option, you won't hit that 150MB threshold in a hurry because the connection is incredibly slow.
While I was unable to load the Speedtest website, the Netflix-backed fast.com reported speeds varying from 100Kbps to a peak of 350Kbps – and those peaks only appeared when there was no other network activity on my laptop. Start doing something, anything, and the needle heads south.
This meant that Web pages were very slow to load, and even in Gmail I had to resort to the ‘Basic HTML’ mode (you'll find those this at bottom-right corner of Gmail's ‘loading’ screen) to handle the sluggish connection.
Unless you're in dire need of Internet connectivity during a Philippine Airlines flight, save your money and more importantly save your stress – jump online using the 30 minute freebie, then for the rest of flight just sit back and relax.
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Philippine Airlines