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PEYA fiasco

08 January 2018

We all know the story by now. Hundreds of Filipinos, mostly OFWs, were not able to board the planes that would have taken them home to a much-anticipated reunion with family members over Christmas.

Were if not for the charitable spirit of the airlines and later, the government, most would have gotten stuck in Hong Kong, uncertain of how to seek redress, and still hoping to be home for Christmas.

Much of the credit for getting things moving quickly should go to the Consulate, notably the outspoken acting head of post, Deric Atienza, who spared no effort in taking up the cudgels for the affected travelers. He got them to file complaints, then took the police to task for not investigating.

The result was that the couple that owns Peya Travel, the company that had caused the biggest uproar to date over unticketed flights out of Hong Kong, was arrested in full glare of the media spotlight.

More importantly, the bleak Christmas that loomed for many of the affected passengers was no more. Around 300 of them managed to eventually fly out in time for Christmas, either through their own resourcefulness, or with help from the airlines and the government.

Many more are scheduled to fly out before the New Year, and beyond.

Police say 645 people were affected, meaning, they paid for their air fare in full, but were not issued the tickets that would have ensured they could board their flights.

As far as things go in Hong Kong, especially those involving our migrant workers, the issue had been addressed quickly, even admirably. One cannot help but feel hopeful that other cases where our workers found themselves at the losing end, as in the fraudulent recruitment by Emry’s, would finally be resolved.

Now all we need to do is to wait for the police to wrap up its investigation to know exactly what had gone wrong.

As longtime customers of Peya and keen observers of events unfolding in the community, we were also shocked to hear of the booking fiasco that left many of our homebound OFWs in tears.

For the past few years, Peya gave off an image of dependability and prosperity, launching its own credit card to much fanfare, moving to a bigger space in WorldWide Plaza, then opening a branch in North Point.

While most travel agencies catering to our community have at most two people attending to the needs of clients, Peya had around half a dozen well-dressed staff manning its counters.

More importantly, except for a single case brought to our attention through social media, we had not heard of any passenger being denied boarding because of a botched booking by Peya.

On top of these, Peya's highly visible co-owner and managing director Yanyan Boyce was well-known in the community, especially among its more militant members, as a generous supporter.

But with emerging stories about Peya’s serious cash problems, we are also taking a closer look at the company’s lavish public spending in the relatively short time it has been in business.

These include the Peya Mastercard launch at Grappas where more than 100 people were invited, a catered junk party for about 50 people, and more recently, a gay beauty contest where participants had to be flown in.

Still, this begs the question of how Yanyan and her co-owner and husband Peter, could have allowed the mess to blow up in such spectacular fashion.

Yanyan, who once shared the story of how she used to work at the defunct Worldwide Travel Agency when exactly the same case happened to its passengers over the Christmas season, should have known better.

No matter the glitch, or inadvertence, or deliberate misdeed by anyone in her staff, she as a hands-on owner, should have known.

And when the problem did blow up, she should have immediately accepted responsibility, instead of pointing the blame on others.

She could have also grabbed the Consulate’s offer to mediate in resolving the issue, and coming up with a definite plan on compensaring the victims.

But all these are under the bridge now.

We can only hope that our OFWs get justice by being fully compensated for what they had to go through because of Peya’s misdeed.

Peya, if it does recover from the mess, should use this as a reminder that customers are at the core of their success as a business, and should thus be treated fairly.

This should also serve as a wake-up call to all companies catering to our community, especially our OFWs.  We help them best by dealing with them honestly, if not compassionately.
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