27 November 2006

PAL: A callous, uncaring airline

NOW I know why Philippine Airlines is not highly regarded among international flag carriers, in spite of its being Asia's first.

Early this morning, Pacific time, we had to harangue and vigirously argue with its ground staff -- outsourced through an outfit called Globeground agents -- to get the usual accommodation that comes with a cancelled flight. Here's the timeline:

10:40pm - published departure time out of Vancouver. When we checked in at around 9 yesterday, we learned that boarding time had been moved back to 2am.

Around 1:30am - the Arrivals and Departures information board showed that the flight had been cancelled. But no announcement was made on the PA system to the unsuspecting passengers.

2am - Globeground staff appeared and told those living in the Greater Vancouver area to go home and come back at around 2:30pm the following day. The rest were asked to wait for further announcement.

3am - Passengers from distant places -- including a party of 20 that came earlier from Edmonton via an Air Canada flight -- were already getting restless. The Globeground staff were stalling, appearing and disappearing every now and then.

3:30-4:00am - Passengers started haranguing the ground staff. Offers for free meal vouchers were initially made. A number settled for them. But our group said we are not hungry; all we need is a place to sleep. They then offered to reimburse the cost we will incur in finding hotel rooms elsewhere, claiming all hotels near the airport are full. When a quick-thinking lady from the Edmonton party managed to get in touch and arrange preliminary booking with Hilton Vancouver (which is just 10 minutes away from the airport), the ground staff said they'll take over and pay for the room.

4:30am - We began waiting for the Hilton Hotel shuttle to arrive. It came in at around 5:15am.

5:45am - Checkin was further delayed when the fax from PAL confirming the arrangement came in late.

And all throughout the ordeal, no organic representative of the airline presented himself to us, using instead the mostly chinese Globeground staff as buffer, who conveniently cannot make the decisions that would have made life a lot, lot better for the harried PAL passengers.