Business Traveller

Philippine Airlines’ Skybed

Alex McWhirter looks back at yesterday’s travel ravel

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Philippine Airlines (PAL) can claim to be the instigator of fully-flat beds o on its B747s many years before its rivals. The first class passen passengers of 1980 qualified forr for none of today’s s swanky lie-flat convertibl­e seating and suites. So with its new fleet of B747-200s, PAL devised an idea to provide ea each person with a seat downstairs and a separate bunk bed upstairs.

PAL’s 14 first c class passengers would sit in convention­al seats of that era on the lower deck, where they would be wined and dined dined. They could then head upstairs to the B747’s top deck to slee sleep it off. What was cle clever was that PAL’s beds, equipped with seat belts, we were certified for take-offs and landings, so passengers could sleep through the entire flight (from Manila) to E Europe or the US should they so wish. This was espec especially important for those heading to or from Europe b because flights took up to 18 hours. (In 1980 they we were multi-stop affairs and most airlines could not ov overfly the Soviet Union.) Wh Why didn’t the concept succeed? Although des desirable in practice, it was uneconomic­al at a tim time when fares were falling and business class wa was in its ascent. It meant the old airline adage that “spa “space is the most precious commodity on any plane” was as tru true then as it remains today.

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