Never has a business class flight been as simultaneously annoying and charming as this one. While there was undeniable appeal to the warm service and authentic food onboard, the Pakistan Airlines 777-200 is simply not a competitive business class product.
After a long morning in Manchester, we assembled at the gate to board. Many passengers were in transit from Islamabad, but all were required to exit the aircraft in Manchester and be re-screened before the onward connection. It appeared that the flight was composed almost exclusively of Pakistanis or those of Pakistani descent and there were very few passengers originating in MAN.
Manchester (MAN) – New York (JFK)
Tuesday, August 3
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 3L (Business Class)
Pakistan Airlines 777 Business Class Seats
Stepping on the aircraft, we turned right and found a dated business class product in a 2-3-2 configuration (5 rows, totaling 35 seats). While comfortable enough for a daytime flight, the seats were quite out of date. Even so, these seats brought back happy memories of the old p.s. first class on United Airlines. These style of seats were also used in Singapore Airlines’ old “Raffles” class.
At this point, a male FA yelled at us to stop taking pictures. Thankfully, he disappeared and the female FAs working business class did not have a problem with us taking additional pictures.
Ben had wisely called Pakistan weeks in advance to assign seats, sparing us the specter of winding up in a middle seat in business class.
The seat contained storage for shoes, a literature pocket, and a small screen. Between our seats was an additional reading light, headphone jack, and universal power outlet. My outlet worked, but Ben’s was broken.
Kiran, the lovely FA who worked our side of the cabin, welcomed us onboard and presented us with a new pillow and blanket after noting we were not transit passengers. It appears that transit passengers from Islamabad did not receive a fresh pillow or blanket. But my new blanket was hardly fresh: it had a long black hair on it…
Fast-forward to the middle of the flight. Understandably (after flying from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester) I was quite tired and despite the downward-sloping seats, I was able to sleep well for four hours.
So in the end the seat is uncompetitive yet ironically provided me a much-needed cocoon to nap.
However, when I woke up my seat would not return to upright mode. No matter how many times I pressed the button, it did not respond. I had to climb out of my seat and allow the FAs to manually return the seat to its full upright mode.
Pakistan Airlines 777 Business Class IFE
After takeoff, the lead flight attendant made an announcement apologizing that many of the IFE systems were broken and promising that PIA was working on updating them. Apologies like that go a long way in managing expectations.
My IFE system worked just fine, though the older system was incredibly slow and the resolution poor. The selection of movies was weak as well, though there were at least a dozen English movies available.
Headphones were provided that must have been identical to economy class. They were terrible.
Pakistan Airlines 777 Business Class Service
Service was great on this flight, and all credit goes to Kiran. She set the tone from our first interaction, when she took my coat and asked, “are there any valuables in your coat?” When I said yes (my passport was in my pocket), she responded with “Well don’t worry, your coat is valuable to me.” I really thought that statement encapsulated her approach to service on this flight.
She seemed to take extra special care of us – perhaps because we stood out in a cabin of Pakistanis. By that I mean she seemed excited to explain what each dish was beamed when we expressed our (honest) satisfaction with the lunch service.’
No amenity kit was offered nor were any amenities available in a basket or inside the lavatory. Looking around the cabin, I also don’t think we simply missed out on them because we did not originate in Pakistan.
Pakistan Airlines 777 Business Class Meals
Prior to takeoff a choice of water, mango, or apple juice was offered in a Pakistan-labeled glass cup.
FAs did not drag out service on this relatively short 7hr transatlantic flight, which was appreciated. Our tray tables were prepared for lunch about 30 minutes after takeoff. No menus were distributed.
PIA has nifty salt and pepper shakers that I was tempted to make a souvenir of the flight. That’s probably why only one of Ben’s S&P shakers had the PIA logo and neither of mine did.
Although just following Pakistani law, PIA uses plastic cutlery in business class. While PIA may be forced to use plastic over “real” cutlery, the government does not force them to use such cheap and flimsy cutlery. It made eating quite a challenge.
A choice of three salads was offered (fresh, Greek, or waldorf) and we both chose fresh. The salad was placed on our tray tables wrapped in plastic and no salad dressing was offered. Bread was also offered and I chose garlic bread and a wrapped wheat roll. The garlic bread was unfortunately cold.
Next up, FAs appeared with canned soft drinks, offering them to passengers without a straw or glass. Pakistan is a dry airline, so there were no alcoholic beverages of any kind offered.
The main course, like the rest of the meal service, rolled out on a cart and featured a wonderful buffet of Pakistani food. Though not as professional as plating everything on a fancy dish, I appreciated that I could choose what I wanted to eat and try a little bit of everything.
I honestly enjoyed the main course so much: the food was delicious and seemed so fitting while flying on Pakistan Airlines. So often it confuses me why many carriers do not offer dishes from their home country.
But though the main course was great, the highlight of the meal was the pistachio desert called kheer. Wow was this good! Honestly I could have eaten several bowls of this and have looked for recipes online since this flight.
Two final courses: a pre-plated cheese course and a choice of fresh fruit off a trolley. The cheese and crackers were truly the sort you are likely to encounter in economy class on most airlines, but it was better than nothing. I appreciated that fresh strawberries were available.
Ben ordered coffee—which was a disgusting powdered variety—while I had a cup of tea.
About 1hr25min prior to landing, a light snack was served. The only word I can think of to describe it is “disgusting”. It included a chicken sandwich and cheesecake.
The bread was stale, chicken of horrible quality, pineapple tasteless, and it also included a maschiano cherry. One bite was enough.
The cheesecake was not as bad, but was not fresh and I also skipped it (wishing I could have more kheer…).
The second meal service was incredibly disappointing.
Pakistan Airlines 777 Business Class Lavatory
Although the lavatory had no unique features or amenities and was showing wear and tear, it was clean.
I cannot in good conscience recommend Pakistan Airlines business class based upon my experience. But three things give me hope. First, Kiran’s genuinely warm service makes it difficult for me to label this a “bad” flight despite the inferior seat, IFE, and amenities. Second, I really appreciated the Pakistani buffet and delicious kheer dessert—it was a unique airline meal even if the rest of the meal service was objectively bad.
Third, Pakistan has leased an ex-Sri Lankan Airlines A330 with reverse herringbone seats that it is running on its flagship Islamabad to London route. Crew has new uniforms and both the quantity and quality of meals has been updated. Should this translate to the New York route as well, I’d be much more likely to give PIA another try.