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Another PAL flight cancellation leaves PH-bound workers in limbo

03 February 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Some of those who went to the airport, not knowing the PAL flight had been canceled

Five of 12 Filipino passengers of Philippine Airlines whose flight was cancelled early Tuesday, Feb 2, faced spending the night in the open if the Mission for Migrant Workers did not step in to help them.

The four female domestic helpers and one male musician who were stranded in the city went straight to the Mission office at St John’s Cathedral from the airport to seek help on what to do about their situation.

They said two other stranded helpers were called back into their employers’ homes while five others decided to stay at Hong Kong Airport to wait for the next available PAL flight.

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But the group said they didn’t want to hang around at the airport without knowing when they could actually board a flight back to the Philippines.

All claimed they were not told in advance that their flight had been canceled, so they confidently packed all their stuff and headed to the airport for their early morning flight, only to be told they were going nowhere.

Bangcawayan (in blue dress) assures the group they will be given shelter

Told about their plight, Consul Paulo Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate said he had already spoken with PAL’s country manager, and she reportedly said “nag auto-email naman daw po sila after they learned na canceled yung flight.”

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He promised to relay the message that PAL should send text messages or call up the passengers instead, as most migrants don’t have easy access to emails - if they have them.

On Jan 3, more than 40 Filipinos were also stranded at the airport when PAL likewise cancelled their flight, and all claimed not to have been told about it in advance. Most of them slept at the airport for two days before they got a flight home on Jan 5.

One of the workers who were left stranded in the later incident told Mission case officer Esther Bangcawayan that she arrived at 8:30am at the airport, only to be told at the PAL check-in counter that her 11:30am flight was cancelled.

Dec 22 ako bi-nook ng employer ko and then noong malapit na ang flight ko, kinansela. Then after two weeks kinansela na naman,” said Mercy Liban, who has decided to finally return home to take care of her elderly mother in Reina Mercedes, Isabela. (My employer booked me for the Dec 22 flight, but a few days before the flight, it was canceled. Then after two weeks it was canceled again).

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Liban said she called up PAL and was told to report to the airline’s office in Tsimshatsui. Staff there gave her an option to book her flight for Jan 30 and she agreed because her visa was expiring on Jan 31. She also agreed to pay an extra $140 for the service.

However, three days before Liban’s flight, her employer received an email from PAL saying the flight had been moved to Feb 2, so she demanded a refund of her $140.

The stranded passengers had their heavy luggage with them, with nowhere to go

A day before her scheduled flight, her employer told Liban her flight was confirmed so she woke up early. At 8am, her employer’s husband drove her to the airport, only to be told the flight was cancelled.

She called up the PAL office and the staff there said they couldn’t do anything but to say “sorry” because it was the government in Manila that cancelled the flight.


The excuse, which was the same given to the other group that was not able to fly out on Jan 3, did not sit well with the passengers. How could the government tell PAL to cancel its Hong Kong flight when Cebu Pacific and Cathay Pacific were able to fly and land in Manila on the same day?

Strangely, the Terminal 2 flight information board at MIAA-NAIA also showed PAL was able to fly in from four cities overseas – from Los Angeles, Dammam, Narita and Seoul. What could have been the reason why its flights to and from Hong Kong were barred on the same day?


The group that sought help from the Mission all said they had nowhere to stay especially if they are made to wait long for the next flight.

Laurita Manal, a Candelaria, Quezon native who had worked here for 18 years, was emotional because her children were expecting her arrival. She was at the airport as early as 4:30am to be first for the check-in and was broken-hearted by the cancellation.

Musician Boy Dilag, from Imus, Cavite who has been a Hong Kong resident for 30 years, said he was going home for good because he had no work since the pandemic forced pubs, bars and night clubs to give up live bands.

Dilag said he had nowhere to go because he had given up his rented flat. At 6pm, he and the four women were still uncertain about where to spend the night.

But Bangcawayan assured them they would have a place to stay as the Mission would call up other NGOs that provide shelter for distressed migrant workers so they will have a roof over their heads until the day they finally fly out.

Sa ngayon, kasi ang kailangan ay mayroon silang matirhan, kaya ihahanap namin sila ng matitirhan, although ang isang point, dapat yung Philippine Airlines responsable siya sa kanyang passengers,” Bangcawayan said. (What’s important for now is that they have a place to stay so we will help them, although it should be Philippine Airlines which should bear the responsibility for its passengers).

She said if there’s a flight cancellation, PAL should first, notify the passengers; second, if there’s a cancellation, it should provide free board and lodging, and third, rebook tickets. She said the workers are all jobless and have no means to pay for rebooking.

“Basically, the problem is with Philippine Airlines. Whatever the reason, whether it’s because the government [banned] travel, responsible pa rin siya sa kanyang pasahero,” Bangcawayan said.

The next concern is visa, as two workers’ permission to stay had already expired, so they need to apply for an extension. The Mission offered to accompany them to Immigration to explain their predicament, and hopefully, get a waiver of the visa extension fee.

Two of the workers will have to apply for visa extension after failing to fly out

The workers and Bangcawayan discussed other problems, including how they could seek compensation from the airlines for allegedly abandoning them after canceling their flight without prior notice.

But that could be a long shot. Amid uncertainties caused by the pandemic, PAL, like all other airlines, is claiming no liability for whatever adverse consequences may be caused by its inability to fly, or refusal to board anyone.  

A warning it has posted on its website says: “Policies purchased after [23th Mar 2020] will not provide any cover for claims directly or indirectly arising from, relating to or in any way connected with Covid-19 (or any mutation or variation thereof or any related strain). We will not therefore cover claims relating to any inability to travel, any decision not to travel or any changes to travel plans, nor any medical or health related loss or expense incurred, as a result of Covid-19.”

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