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Over 400 stranded OFWs dismayed by response to complaint vs PAL

15 May 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The complainants say they've been waiting for months for PAL to fly them home

Hundreds of Filipino domestic workers who have been stuck in Hong Kong for months have expressed dismay at the response they got to a complaint one of them had filed with Malacanang against Philippine Airlines’ frequent flight cancellations.

The Civil Aeronautics Board, to which the Presidential Complaints Center endorsed the worker’s complaint early this week, gave PAL 24 hours to answer the complaint.


But on Friday, May 14, the national flag carrier’s legal office replied to the CAB directive by dealing with only an individual ticket refund claim by one of the workers.

PAL said that based on its records, “the refund request has already been approved for processing,” but as the purchase of the tickets was made via credit card, the airline’s approval to refund was forwarded to its acquiring bank, which will process the refund to the card issuing bank.

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The stranded workers, who number around 400 based on a list supplied to the Consulate, said the CAB appeared to have misunderstood the complaint, which was made on behalf of everyone holding a cancelled PAL ticket.

It was not a simple complaint for a much-delayed refund for a ticket, although they also wished they could get an immediate refund so they could switch to another airline that could better assure them of a return flight home.

Some complainants gave up the wait and flew home aboard another airline

They also said the worker who made the complaint had already flown back to the Philippines via another airline, after giving up on her quest to get onto a PAL flight.

The distressed workers were perplexed because only two days earlier, their colleague who sent the emailed complaint to the PCC received a response from CAB, saying it was investigating.

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The CAB then asked for the names of complainants/victims and copies of their tickets, bookings and cancellations. It also sent the worker a copy of the notice it sent PAL instructing the airline to answer/comment within 24 hours.

Following PAL’s reply to CAB, which the civil aviation regulator forwarded to the complaining worker, the complainant wrote another email to CAB pointing out the apparent misunderstanding.


“Hi Mam/Sir, we truly appreciate your response and assistance to our email. We are actually requesting your kind office to help our fellow stranded OFWs in Hong Kong to be sent home. Miss Janie is only one of the stranded OFWs in Hong Kong …we are really hoping that you can help (us) to be home in Philippines,” the complainant said.      

The stranded workers also sought The SUN's help in relaying their concerns to the Consulate

The workers have also sent a petition letter to Consul General Raly Tejada to ask for help in getting onto one of the flights arranged by the Consulate with PAL, saying they had no more cash to buy a ticket on other carriers. 

“Most of us bought air tickets from PAL, but, unfortunately, our flights had been cancelled several times. For every rebooking of our tickets, we were charged rebooking fee. One of us has had her flight cancelled 8 times since January. Another is in need of medical assistance,” the workers said in the petition. 

Pindutin para sa detalye

“Many of us are already so desperate and distressed; most of us are already mentally and physically unhealthy,” said the workers, who admitted they have been skipping meals and are relying only on the generosity of supporters for their daily needs.

This was followed up with a visit to the Consulate last Sunday, during which the petitioners pressed their appeal for help, saying they had run out of money for their rebookings and visa extensions.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Consul Paulo Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, said the Department of Foreign Affairs has already requested the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force to allow PAL to fly home 200 workers on its May 19th flight.

But as of Thursday, 400 stranded workers had already signed up for a place in the flight that is still being arranged. 

Saret said another flight is being arranged later this month to fly the remaining workers home. But in the meantime, the ball is in the IATF’s court, as the body that oversees the government’s coronavirus response gets to decide on how many passengers can fly into Manila from various destinations abroad on a daily basis.

He urged the stranded workers to register with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and wait.

Wong confirms two PAL cargo flights are arriving later this month 

The PAL officer who is in charge of the airline’s Hong Kong office, George S.F. Wong, said there are indeed two cargo flights arriving on May 19 and May 26. But it is the executives in Manila who can confirm whether there would be seats on the return flights  for the stranded workers.

Only cargo flights are allowed to fly in from Manila since Hong Kong imposed a ban on all passenger arrivals from the Philippines since Apr 20.

Meanwhile, PAL called one of the stranded workers on Thursday to confirm her booking for the May 19 flight to Manila. The worker excitedly shared the news with the other stranded OFWs, keeping them abuzz.

Some workers with PAL tickets, however, greeted the “good news” with chagrin and began shifting to Cebu Pacific even at high prices for a one-way ticket home.

On Monday, one worker left Hong Kong on a Cebu Pacific flight after her employer paid $2,600-plus for her ticket and discarded the PAL ticket. Four others were able to book seats on a Cebu Pacific flight on Thursday.

But for the rest, the long wait for a flight home continues. Many have already been issued red-sealed letters of ultimatum to exit by HK Immigration, but they could not comply due to PAL’s repeated cancellations of their bookings.


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