The “Airline Bullying” story below is posted with permission from the author Roxanne Lu.
This happened to me yesterday for my Air Philippines Caticlan-Manila flight. I never wish for it to happen to me again, nor do I wish this to happen to any of you ever. This is a pretty long story, but if you have the patience you might learn a thing or two when dealing with airlines.
ORIGINAL TICKET: Caticlan to Manila on May 7, 2012, 8:20am flight.
4 May 2012 – I received an email from PAL notifying me that my May 7th flight to Manila, PR040, ETD has changed from 8:20am to 9:50a.m. (Ticket #2)
I made two (2) calls to PAL on 5 May 2012 (Sat), as soon as I read my e-mail notification from PAL.
- 8:23pm (about 20 mins on the phone): I explained that I received an email notice from them that my flight PR040 ETD has been adjusted to fly out 9:50am instead of the original 8:20am. I asked if there was an earlier flight (any flight before the PR040) that they could move me into because I have a meeting at 10:30am in Manila. They said there’s a 9:10am flight but I have to pay about P1,200 if I want to fly on that schedule. “And that’s the earliest flight you can fly me out me with?” I asked. Yes, the support agent replied. I went back to the issue at hand, which was the additional cost. I said, “But technically, you guys owe me because I paid for an earlier flight. I did not move myself to 9:50am, you did. I paid for an early morning flight, so don’t think I should pay that. I have a business reason why I specifically chose an earlier flight, so can you please ask your supervisor if they can waive the additional payment?” I was put on hold. A few minutes later, they got back to me and said they will move me to the9:10am flight without additional cost, and that I should call back in about 30 minutes or so to confirm the changes.
- 9:33pm (the call back request; about 5 mins on the phone): I inquired for the status of my request and was informed that it was granted with no additional charges. They will e-mail me my new e-ticket for flight PR 046 ETD 9:10am. It was sent to me the following day, May 6th. (Ticket #3)
7 May 2012 – A little before 7:30am, I was already at the check-in counter of Air Philippines (PAL). The check-in officer informed me that I will be moved to the 9:50a.m. flight. At first I thought she was just mistaken or confused. I asked her to look at my e-ticket because it says PR046 ETD 9:10am. She informed me that due to factors causing delay of flights, they will move me to the 9:50am flight – and that she’s sorry. I asked for her supervisor. The supervisor, which I heard was called Sir John/Jon, took his sweet time leaving his table after the check-in officer asked for him. He stood up looking either bored or that “here-we-go-again-another-complaint” expression. When he finally went over to the counter, I explained from the beginning of when PAL emailed me changing my departure time, to us agreeing that I fly out at 9:10am, and the need for me to fly out at 9:10am since my original choice of time, 8:20am, was scrapped and moved to the 9:50am. As I say this, I glanced at the tv screen showing the flight/check-in/boarding status and to my disbelief I saw flashed on the screen: “2P 040, 8:20 a.m. Check-in Open”. I instantly forgot about the 9:10-vs.-9:50 issue and said, “Wait… is that PR(2P) 040, 8:20am flight? It exists???” It dawned on me that the 9:50am flight was not PR(2P) 040 and the Ticket #2 which claimed that I have to take the 9:50am flight of 040 was untrue. In fact, it was a lie in paper form.
“I want to check-in for that PR040, 8:20am flight. This is my e-ticket for that,” I handed them my original ticket, Ticket #1, “that is the flight I paid for.” The supervisor told me that I’m not allowed to do that because I rebooked my flight to 9:10am. “I rebooked that WITH PAL, and only because I was told that that flight doesn’t exist. But it exists, so I should be there, right?” He replied, “No, ma’am. You rebooked this yourself so we can’t entertain you for 8:20am.” So I challenged him, “Okay, let’s say we forget the 8.20am; I should still be able to fly out the 9.10am plane because this is my current flight plan. So why are you bumping me to 9:50am again, when I already informed your company 2 days ago that I cannot settle for that late a flight?” His response was the well-practice, common line, “Due to engine failure of the aircraft-“ I interrupted, “No, no.. There’s NO engine failure, we BOTH know that. Those planes will come and go, and this is NOT just a matter of delay because if it had been you wouldn’t be moving me to different flight numbers, I would have the same flight number but with a delayed ETD.” I am a bit shaken at this point, and my tone of voice was pointed but still controlled. I reminded myself not to get personal or lash into a frustrated verbal attack. Also, there were irritated grunts behind me already. I looked at the Japanese passengers behind me and said, “I’m sorry for this but I’m not letting this go unless I get my answers.” At that point, the supervisor asked another counter to be opened. He looked back at me and said, “The most we could do is put you on a standby as a chance passenger.” I replied, “That’s not even an option. That is just the quickest way to silence me but then bumped me off still by getting back to me later claiming the craft is full. No, it’s either you put me on the 8.20am flight or the 9.10am flight.” He put down my e-ticket and said, “That’s the only thing we can do right now, put you on standby” then he turned and went back to his desk.
With my mouth gaping wide, I looked at the desk officer and asked her, “So, now what? What should I do? What’s my flight? And I’m standby for which flight?” She said she’ll just call me because the supervisor said I’m on standby so I am.
I called PAL, gave them my reference number and explained the whole thing again. The agent on the phone said, “Ma’am, I don’t understand why they’re putting you at 9:50, you’re confirmed for 9.10.” I explained that the supervisor did not give me any REAL reason for bumping me off and that she should talk to him. She did, and I gave the phone to the check-in counter girl who handed the phone to him. It took them more than 5 minutes to talk and by the end of it, he gave me back my phone and the girl on the other line apologized because he failed to explain the reason. She said that he informed her of the delays of turnaround aircraft. I paused, “And? That’s that? That’s all he said? I explained everything to you, that this is not just about delayed flights, miss. I’m being bumped off, can’t you see that? And what happens now? They didn’t say where I should go or what time I should expect to be notified. There are no chairs here, no instructions, no nothing. I’m just expected to stand aside and wait for them to beckon for me. Is this the service bumped-off passengers get from PAL? And not to mention I’m spending money on my mobile phone calling your landline number but I’m not getting ANY support from you at all. You’re just echoing what he already told me.” She asked for the supervisor again. While they were talking, I saw him gesture to a guy across the room and that guy immediately grabbed a chair and placed it on the spot where I’m standing, which is in the middle of the check-in area. (‘Are you mocking me now, rude supervisor?’ I was boiling inside, but I held my tongue.) I looked at the man who placed the chair behind me and said, “No thanks, my phone is still with him. I’m waiting for it.” FYI: all the check-in counters are busy and my case was being dealt at on the side.
When I got my phone back, the girl on the other line said, “I instructed them to make you comfortable while you wait–“ I interrupted, “That is not the core issue here, miss; what I want is to fly out here on that 8.20am flight. And why in the world does PR 040 8:20am flight exists when I was specifically informed by an email notification, which started this all, that PR 040 was moved to fly at 9:50a.m?” She doesn’t have an answer to that question, instead she asked if we end the phone call so she could call me back on my mobile phone so I wouldn’t incur more charges after our 30-minute talk now. I agreed. I was mad but I’m not ridiculous enough to let pride reign and continue the convo at MY expense. A few seconds after, she called back and asked for the supervisor again. When the phone was returned to me, more shocking lies followed.
“Mam, the supervisor informed me that he cannot put you on the 8.20am flight because that is being re-routed to Masbate, due to flight delays.” Now, I’ve heard of flights getting re-rerouted from Caticlan to Kalibo, but MASBATE????? I couldn’t speak.. literally, I could not speak. I was already losing my voice from the night before and it is taking a LOT of effort and pain to speak and make my case for almost an hour to these guys, and they have the GALL to lie some more???
“MASBATE? And.. omg… and you BELIEVE him??” She hesitated before saying, “That’s what he said.” I threw my hands in the air. “Miss, he’s just a supervisor! You guys are head office! I don’t have to suggest that you look at your system to check whether or not that’s true.” She seemed to have gathered her courage and told me, “Ma’am, if you insist to be on the 8.20am flight we can see what we can do, but do you really want to end up in Masbate?” Wow, the nerve. I cleared my throat and decided that I will make my case even if it rips my throat apart. “Miss, fine. You win. You and that supervisor can put me in ANY Manila-bound flight you want, I don’t care anymore. But when I get to Manila, you can bet I will find out about that PR 040 flight and if it, indeed, got re-routed to Masbate. Because if not, I will have you and that supervisor held legally accountable for the series of deception that PAL has thrown my way in this entire trip. I have a solid, legal case because you KNOW I have a copy of the deceptive email notice about PR040, you KNOW I am now staring at the tv screen flashing PR 040 8.20am TO MANILA and not Masbate, and you KNOW I have enough proof to file a legal complaint against your company. OR you have another choice, I can walk inside the waiting gate right now and asked the PR 040 passengers bound for Manila if they know they’re being re-rerouted to Masbate. Take your pick.”
She asked if I can hold for 10-15 minutes to give her time to consult her supervisor. By this time I have already memorized the on-hold advertisement of PAL and I was really sick of it. It’s already 8.10a.m and the PR 040 8.20am counter is already closed. In an instant, I felt helpless, powerless, and frankly, bullied. I’m going to miss my meeting, and for all I know, I might end up flying out at 3pm or something. And my throat is throbbing badly. I went to the bathroom because I do not want them to see me cry. I went straight to the sink and washed my face and dried some of the tears out. A janitress holding a mop followed me inside and gently asked, “Inaaway ka ba nila, mam? Delayed po ba flight nyo?” (Are they making you upset? Is your flight delayed?) My pride wouldn’t allow me to look at her. I ripped off a bunch of paper towels and replied, “Hindi nga delay, ate eh, buti kung yun lang. Nanggagago na kasi sila eh.” I cried, “At wala akong magawa kasi nandito ako. Mali talaga, ate eh,” (It’s not just the delay, if it is just a case of delayed flight ok, but they’re fooling me. And I can’t do anything about it because I’m here. It’s so wrong.)
When the phone support officer returned to me, she requested if I could hand my phone back to the supervisor Jon again. I did. As before, I couldn’t hear what they were talking about except for his occasional “Roger. Roger. Yes, roger” replies. When I got my phone back, the support officer said they have instructed the supervisor to communicate with the pilot of the incoming flight which will serve as the turnaround flight for the PR040 flight. I will be on the flight out if the pilot said he has enough room (weight-wise) to accommodate my weight and my backpack. They will also add all the total weight of the passengers and their luggage to check if it hasn’t reached the weight limit and can still accommodate the weight I carry. I am about 50kgs and my backpack weighs 8 kilos only, but still I know a small plane could only accommodate so much. I sighed and gave in. I was already emotional and I did not want to cross the line of freaking out or arguing some more. When she finished telling me of my priority status, I tearfully replied, “Grabe kayo, miss. I know hindi nga dapat issue yung type of passenger pero yung ticket ko hindi ito savers fare. I’m a regular paying passenger. Pano nyo ako napili out of all the 8.20am passengers na ma-bump off? At bakit tinapunan nyo ako ng sangkatutak na lies? Sobra na kayo, miss. Grabe talaga.” (You guys are too much, miss. I know this shouldn’t even be an issue, but my ticket was bought at regular price. I am not flying under a promo fare; so how did you pick me to bump off out of the other 8.20am passengers already checked in? You guys are too much, miss.) I ended the call when I started crying again. I can’t do anything else but wait, anyways.
The supervisor approached me, the first time in the past hour, to inform me what the girl on the phone already did. But this time he was more polite, and directing people to call the pilot, to secure my backpack, to weigh all the bags of the passengers, etc, so they can know immediately if they can accommodate me.
In the end, they gave me my boarding pass for the 8.20am flight, which took off at 9.10am. We landed at 10.10am, and no, not in Masbate, but in Manila, of course.
Although I fought hard and “won”, it doesn’t change the fact that I have been victimized by the cunning deception and unprofessional service of AirPhilippines/PAL. There were, at least, two serious occasions where they blatantly lied to me just so they could bump me to a later flight. And they almost ripped me off an additional P1,200 had I not argued about the irrationality of additional charges in my case. And of course, there’s the more-than-an-hour mobile charges incurred from calling them at least 4 times after Ticket #2 was issued.
Before I spoke my heart out, the support agent assured me that she and her boss will personally monitor the PR 040 flight and to make sure I leave in one of the morning flights. I asked her to look into the email re: Ticket #2 PR 040, to know why I got bumped off in the first place, and to find out where that Masbate thing came from. I want them to own up to what they put me through and explain to me all the vague points/claims made. I would appreciate an apology, sure, but at this point, I just want the PAL management to know and learn from this case; for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) to know that these practices exist; and for my friends to be informed that they need to be vigilant against corporate bullying. My flight from Manila to Caticlan was delayed by 2 hours and that was fine by me. Those kinds of setbacks happen. But nobody should tolerate deceptive practices, whether you’re a passenger who paid the regular fare or the promo fare. Know your rights and remind yourself to deal with the service personnel professionally. They would easily shrug you off if you freak out, as oppose to keeping your head together. Lastly, demand accountability. This is your right, and I am exercising mine right now.
The “Airline Bullying” story above is posted with permission from the author Roxanne Lu.