Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dear Mr. Bautista re: PR507, January 12, 2012 -- my horrible flight experience with PAL (Philippine Airlines) --

We had the worst flight experience with PAL during our first international family trip last January 12.  (This trip was a post-birthday gift to me and my husband and an early birthday gift to my sister.)

In the Mabuhay magazine, Mr. Jaime Bautista has a space which provides his email address and asks readers to "tell him how they are" -- I sent this email to him (but my husband warned me that this will just end up in his Junk Mail folder.)

I have heard the same sentiment expressed by other people who have also experienced flight delays and cancellations (or knows someone who did) -- they all warned me that Philippine Airlines doesn't care.  ~sigh~ =(

If anyone knows anyone from PAL who would, at least, read/listen to my story, I would really appreciate it.

* * *

January 16, 2012

Dear Mr. Bautista,

I would like to share with you our horrible travel experience with Philippine Airlines.

We decided to take our first international trip as a family using Philippine Airlines -- I had no doubts about my choice of airlines because I have traveled abroad using PAL and have experienced PAL at its best.  I was confident that my two kids (5 and 2) would be comfortable.  

We booked our tickets on September 25 for a trip from January 12 to 16, 2012.  We were travelling directly from Iloilo to Singapore, connecting through Manila --

We experienced our first setback 2 weeks before our flight (December 30) when I received an email from PAL informing us of our new flight schedule -- 1 hour later than the original time (1115 am instead of 1010am) --

Although it meant having to wait 4 hours between flights, we were determined not to let this affect our enthusiasm and excitement over our vacation.

We arrived from Iloilo without incident and were pleased with the very attentive service from the ground staff of Air Philippines who assisted us with our transfer to Terminal 2.  I foolishly thought this was a sign that our trip would be all positive.

Our international flight was not something I had anticipated to experience from Philippine Airlines.

We were first informed that our flight had been pushed back to 1230pm.  When 1230 came, and no boarding announcement was made, I became very worried and your ground staff would not provide us with sufficient information-- they kept telling us to wait for an announcement.

When the announcement was made, informing us that our flight had been cancelled, my heart plummeted.  We were told that our flight would be merged with the 920pm flight (PR505).

The cancellation of our flight caused us to lose precious time -- it also cost us 1-night stay at our hotel because it was too late to cancel our booking for the day.  We paid for 2 rooms which we did not use.  (More than US$400)

It also caused me endless worry -- we were scheduled to watch Wicked in Singapore on January 13 and were supposed to pick up our tickets one day before.  Because our flight was cancelled, I could not pick up my tickets.  Thankfully, Sistic still released our tickets when we explained our situation.

When we were issued new boarding passes for the 920pm flight, I was dismayed to see that my family was split up.  I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old and we paid for the booking class that allowed us to do advance seat selection and I made certain that our party of 6 would be sitting together.  (On our return flight to Manila today, our advance seat selection was also not honoured and we ended up sitting at row 64.  What is the point of this benefit if it would not be honoured?)

***My 2-year old was in 67A, My husband, me and Seth were in 67E, F and G.  My sister was in 71K.  

I was close to tears, trying to get my family seated together -- and your ground staff kept pointing out that because our flight was cancelled, we had to accept the new booking assignment.  I requested to speak to the person in-charge but he REFUSED to talk to me over your staff's phone.

At this point, my family had been traveling for more than 12 hours.  We were exhausted, physically and emotionally.  My children missed their naps and their medication.  The seating was another painful, unnecessary blow to us.

Thankfully, we were finally issued seats that were together.  (But this was after much pleading and waiting.)

Our 920pm flight eventually left at past 10 and we arrived in Singapore at 135 in the morning -- this was 12 hours later than our first expected arrival.

By the time we arrived in Singapore, we had no choice but to pay for a taxi service (S$50) since and the MRT and bus only operated until midnight.

We arrived in Singapore tired and very demystified with our terrible flight experience with PAL.

We had lost a day and we lost a bit of our budget due to circumstances forced on us by your airlines.

I am sitting here right now at the domestic terminal, writing this to you, because my PAL flight to Iloilo is LATE as well.  I approached your ground staff at the appointed boarding time and I was told, yet again, to "wait for the announcement" -- our flight is supposed to depart at 605pm and it is now 556pm -- no announcement has been made.

I have already contacted Chartis to inquire about our travel insurance, which we also purchased through PAL -- and I was informed to submit my request but that reimbursements for delays only counts for delays from 12 hours.

I will submit my report to them -- but, even if we receive monetary compensation, I wonder who can compensate me and my children for their first trip -- it is meant to be an experience of wonder -- but it left both my children exhausted and sleepless for almost 24 hours.  (My son now has anxieties and keeps asking if our plane is broken and if we have to stay up late again -- )

I wonder who can give us back the day we lost in Singapore and the tour we had planned for that afternoon.

A vacation is supposed to be a happy time and a time of relaxation and enjoyment -- my vacation was stressful -- the lack of empathy and consideration from your ground staff left me feeling very dehumanized.

Your airlines owes my son a vacation where he won't be afraid that the plane is broken and that he cannot sleep in a bed because of it.


Khristine, mom of Seth (5) and Annika (2)
Iloilo City


Jan said...

I feel so bad for your awful experience. PAL is really having a lot of problems due to the constant strikes and walkouts of staff recently. However, they should have shown more empathy. Why don't you ask a lawyer friend to write them a legal sounding letter and see how they react. Usually they will just settle out of court.

Cracky Bear said...

This is just inexcusable and beyond atrocious. This experience has convinced me - at least for the immediate future - to boycott PAL and to never give them a single peso of my money. To think they treat their customers so carelessly is both immensely disappointing and frustrating. What makes matters worse is that their flights are usually the most expensive, so one would hope/expect them to have a tad more professionalism.

I agree with Jan that you should threaten some kind of legal action to at the very least get a refund or voucher for your deplorable experience.

Tin (ni Johann) said...

Hi, Jan!

I am hoping to hear a response from them soon. Chartis has already replied and will start reviewing our insurance claim.

So far, nothing from PAL -- and I emailed both the president and their customer care.

* * *

Hi, Cracky Bear!

Thank you for dropping by. Like you, I will also give PAL a miss and will choose other airlines when I travel.

Frustrating is the correct word -- I am a mother who was trying to get my kids comfortable during a very uncomfortable situation.

But mine is not a unique situation -- I have heard far worse stories. (One had been stranded for 67 hours a year ago! And she never heard from PAL.)

I am still waiting for them to reply. I am still hoping that they will reply.

Unknown said...

Hello! I first read it from N@W Digest and I have posted your BLOG to my FB account and even to PAL's twitter account and TED FAILON's account too hoping that he might address it. Hope that this will really be spread out and be reached to them. God Bless!

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Anonymous said...

Hi Khristine! I got the link of your blog through PAL's fan page in Facebook, as I was trying to book with them for our 1st Busuanga trip with our children, 5 and almost 2 of age :) I am now hesitant to push through with PAL, because I am worried we would have the same experience, although it is just a trip within the country. My husband is coming home from work on board the ship, so it is expected of him to anticipate a really relaxing vacation. To make it happen, our choice of airlines should start it right. Now I am closing the tab of PAL's website! Haha!

Thanks dear! Your horrible flight experience with PAL is a lesson learned. I wish you good luck on your next travel. God bless :)

Tin (ni Johann) said...

Hi, Paula!

I'm sorry to have caused you to worry about your own flight -- in truth, I think all of our airlines have their share of delays and cancellations.

If you look at Cebu Pacific's record for December, they were only on time 65+% of the time. That means 1 in 3 flights was either late or (God forbid) cancelled.

At the gate, while we were waiting for our flight, I actually found myself defending PAL -- most of the foreigners who were on the same flight were already saying that that would be their first and last time to travel PAL --

I told them that PAL was generally a very good airlines to travel -- that I had taken PAL flights that were on time and very pleasant.

I just wished they handled our flight's situation with a little bit more sympathy -- and with a little more consideration for everyone on our flight.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip to Busuanga --

In our case, except for the terrible way we got to Singapore -- my kids really enjoyed their stay there.

Tin (ni Johann) said...

@Unknown --

Thank you for your help.

I have received an email from both Chartis and PAL Customer Care --

I think, at the end of the day, all we needed (people from our flight) was to have someone listen to our individual concerns.

We needed a ground staff who saw us as individuals who had genuine fears and worries.

Thank you, again, for sharing in our experience.

Have a nice day!