"I had firsthand experience."
We do understand the reason why Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag-carrier, has filed for bankruptcy.
When the government decided to enforce the Luzon-wide lockdown at the beginning of COVID pandemic last year, the travel industry was immediately among the hardest hit.
The commercial airline sector shut down abruptly owing to strict travel and tour restrictions, leading to sweeping cancellation of flights amid traveller panic and chaos.
International travel ban and domestic travel restrictions grounded most aircrafts for months and airline companies incurred massive losses, also prompting worker layoffs.
PAL is no exception, thus its claim for bankruptcy.
I have been flying with PAL for over three decades and I have always enjoyed the warm hospitality and the professionalism of its ground and flight crewmembers.
Sadly, things have apparently changed in the wake of PAL’s bankruptcy declaration.
After a whole year of not flying, I chose to take PAL again last May 22nd going to the United States to attend to some family matters. I also planned to have my COVID vaccination there.
I always flew business class with PAL for comfort, especially on longer international trips.
But to my disappointment, PAL’s customer service drastically fell short of my expectations, such as getting a wide comfy seat for the 13-hour “travel back in time” from Manila to Los Angeles.
Instead I had to contend with a broken seat that would not recline for me to be able to stretch, rest comfortably and sleep like a baby.
With regard to the in-flight meal, they served salad with no salad dressing so everyone had to settle with salt for “flavoring.”
After over a month of taking care of family business across the US and having completed my COVID jabs of two doses of Pfizer, I took PAL again for my homecoming to Manila last July 4th.
I had thought the poor customer service I experienced on my flight to the US was an isolated incident, unusual of PAL, “the Heart of the Filipino.”
I was wrong.
The scheduled departure was 2:45 p.m. LA time but boarding did not start until 2:30 p.m. and the flight got delayed without any explanation from the PAL crewmembers.
When we boarded the Boeing 777, supposedly the newest in their fleet, lo and behold, the more than 100 business class passengers had to bear with using two toilets for the 13-hour flight “back to the future” to Manila.
A third toilet was reserved for the exclusive use of the PAL flight stewards.
Similar to the one I got on my way to LA, I was given a business class seat that could not recline as the broken footrest dropped to the floor.
For the meal, passengers were again served with salad with no dressing which the bankrupted airline cannot provide.
Finally upon arrival at NAIA, I thought my ordeal was over but I was mistaken once more.
I had to witness this PAL supervisor arrogantly scolding NAIA staff at the quarantine protocol area for giving VIP treatment to some foreigners.
Those few foreigners just happened to be business class passengers so they got ahead in line. Just like I did, they had to put up with PAL’s dilapidated business-class seats, were served with food without condiments and took turns using only two available toilets.
So much for PAL’s “genuine Filipino hospitality.”
I wish PAL President and COO Gilbert Santa Maria would remind his personnel that they are duty-bound to provide world-class services for as long as PAL remains the official flag carrier despite its bankruptcy claims.
PAL’s state of business may be up in the air but its demoralized staff should continue to provide customer service with “the heart of the Filipino.”