"The heart of the Filipino? Seriously?"
Philippine Airlines’ slogan, “Heart of the Filipino,” is such a misnomer it causes a great injustice to every citizen of this country.
While the slogan, which kicked off in other countries in 2017, was intended to celebrate the best of Filipino values on which PAL claims it was built, its treatment of its passengers grossly contradicts its Buong-Pusong Alaga or “The Filipino Touch” principle of service.
About three weeks ago, this corner came out with an article questioning airline responsibilities over cancelled, delayed and rescheduled flights. Of course, the airlines, PAL included, could always hide under the cloak of the Passenger Bill of Rights which provides for limited responsibilities for airlines in such cases.
The Passenger Bill of Rights effective shields airlines from the responsibilities over missed hotel, tour, activity and other bookings the passenger may have placed in advance, arising from delayed, cancelled or rescheduled flights as the airlines involved could easily invoke the reason for such was beyond their control.
But what if something happens to a passenger who has booked a flight, which is also beyond the control of the passenger?
Last Sunday, a friend was supposed to fly with his family to San Francisco via PAL, acquiring their tickets in a PAL promo. From there, they were to fly to Honolulu via Hawaiian Air. They also had their hotel bookings arranged.
However, on the eve of their flight, my friend’s daughter was rushed to the hospital for acute appendicitis, for which she was operated five hours after admission.
Hence, my friend had to rebook everything. The first thing he contacted were the hotels which readily acceded to his request provided he furnish them with the medical certificate of his daughter to which he abided. He then contacted Hawaiian Air which requested the same requirement as that of the hotels but which also granted his request. All of these were made without any additional charges.
Lastly, he contacted PAL which assured him there would be no problem with his request and that all he had to do was to drop by any ticketing office and present his daughter’s medical certificate.
The next day, he proceeded to a PAL ticketing office in Ortigas. He was told he could rebook his family’s flight for US$5,000, a price equivalent to the original cost of their tickets. But why rebook if they will be charged the same price as that of their ticket? And they are not even rebooking their return flight.
Moreover, the date they are asking for falls within the travel period stated in the PAL promo (For everyone’s understanding, an airline promo usually states the booking period and the travel date).
The PAL staff explained that the charges included the price differential of the cost of the original ticket and the rebooked flight. But when my friend asked the fare of their original schedule and the rebooked flight, the PAL staff told them they were just the same. When my friend asked to talk to the manager, he was told the manager was to busy to entertain him.
So, my friend went to the PAL ticketing office in Cubao were the staff were more accommodating. The Cubao office was willing to rebook his flight at the cost of US$3,000. He was again given the same explanation as that in the Ortigas office, the price differential of the fare when there was actually none, etc. And as with the Ortigas office, the manager at the PAL office in Cubao also refused to talk to him.
Now the question: Why is it when it is that the airline is at fault in rebooking, rescheduling or cancelling our flights, we are simply forced to accept whatever adjustments they impose and the best they could offer us are food vouchers or hotel accommodation at the nearest location at the origin of the flight affected, but never the differential of the price which we incur arising from the said incidents?
And they call that brand of service, “the heart of the Filipino?”
What happened to my friend and his family does not reflect the true heart of the Filipino. He was rejected at the PAL Ortigas office with the manager refusing to see him. The Cubao office willingly reduce the price differential by US$2,000 which means it was the call of the office manager to determine the cost if any, of a flight rebooking. But if the hotels in San Francisco and Hawaii and Hawaiian air could rebook their hotel accommodation and flights at no extra cost, why can’t PAL?
Just why can’t PAL’s office managers see and talk to one paying clientele who had a valid issue to raise?
And why is PAL charging a price differential for their ticket when they are rebooking their flight covered by the same period as stated in the promo?
In fact, another friend, who also had the misfortune of cancelling his flight with Singapore Air at last minute after having been diagnosed with some kidney problem, was reimbursed in full.
If these airlines can extend those to their passengers, what’s keeping PAL from doing so?
PAL claims that their slogan reflects a unique brand of hospitality that’s proactive and selfless, and a disposition and attitude that’s resilient and always cheerful, and that is what sets them apart from its competition. But apparently, that is not what their staff have been extending to their clienteles.
The Filipinos are not pusong bato
. On the contrary, they are pusong mamon
, soft-hearted, even willing to give you the full arm when all you’re asking for is the tip of their finger.
Clearly, the slogan is not apt for the service PAL extends to their clienteles. It does not in any way reflect the heart of the Filipino. They are simply heartless.
It’s a good thing there are some members of the House of Representatives and Senate who have expressed willingness to tackle the issue of airline responsibilities and revisit the Passenger Bill of Rights as soon as Congress opens session.
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For those who also had the misfortune of experiencing these incidents with PAL or any other local airline, please don’t hesitate to reach me through my email: [email protected]
I would be more than willing to raise your concerns in my allotted space here.