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PAL’s June 1 flight for stranded workers still wide open

31 May 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 
Last-minute documents check for the May 26 flight arranged by the Consulate

It’s all systems go for the next arranged airlift to Manila of Filipino workers stranded in Hong Kong due to repeated flight cancellations by Philippine Airlines. The special PAL flight has been set for tomorrow, June 1.

Anyone booked on a PAL flight on later dates can register on the website of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office ( and call them immediately to confirm, or inform Arnel de Luna of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section no later than noon today, Monday.


Consul Paulo Saret who has been liaising with the airlines on the special flights for stranded passengers had said in an earlier interview that it did not look like the 150 extra seats allotted for this upcoming flight would be fully used up.

For the earlier flight on May 26 with the same number of allotted seats, Saret said it took the Consulate and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration some time filling up the quota as many of those who had signed up could no longer be contacted.

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This may be because the workers had given up hoping they could still fly with PAL and had switched to other airlines so they could return home and avoid further expenses on food, accommodation, visa extension and rebooking fees.

Starting on Sunday, OWWA staff had begun calling those who had signed up for the Consulate-arranged seat allocation to confirm if they were willing to take up the slot given them. If they declined, the seat was passed on to the next person on the list.


One of those who just signed up for the Jun 1 flight is Susan T., whose visa is valid only until Jun 2 but has been rebooked by PAL to Jun 15. Susan said she had been hoping to get on a flight home for some time.

“Going home for good, 26 years working here in Hong Kong. Senior na ako, time to retire,” she said.

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On Saturday, she said she was still waiting for a call from OWWA to confirm her slot. She also went to PAL but was reportedly told that the Jun 1 flight could not be confirmed.

When The SUN checked with OWWA’s welfare officer Virsie Tamayao, Susan’s name did not appear on the list because her online registration failed to get through to their system.

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OWWA staff Joszoa Villa later said he had already included Susan on their list, but she still needed to complete the online registration as her personal details there would be used to confirm her booking with PAL. 

Some of the 150 workers who were finally able to leave for home on May 26

The Consulate, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has interceded for around 420  PAL passengers, most of whom had booked and rebooked their tickets repeatedly since the national flag carrier kept cancelling flights.

When asked for an explanation, a spokesperson for the airline said the cancellations were due to the 1,500 daily arrivals quota at Ninoy Aquino International Airport imposed since Mar 18 by the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid control.

However, this hardly explains why PAL has been cancelling flights even before the arrival cap was put in place. It also does not explain why other airlines flying the same route do not cancel flights as often as PAL does.

Also among those who will be going home on June 1 is Virginia, a domestic helper who was dismissed on the spot by her employer on Apr 1 without paying her all money due her.

The worker said her employer gave her only $1,000 as final pay as she took the bulk of her salary as “payment” to the employer for her employment termination.

Asked why she was fired, Virginia said she had complained about being overworked and underfed until she began to weaken and suffer from hemoglobin deficiency.

She said she was so confused and eager to go home that she didn’t bother to report her case to the Labour Department. She immediately booked a flight with PAL, only to be cancelled twice, before she was booked on the June 1 special flight.

The worker, who says she is very eager to go home and be with her family, began packing her belongings yesterday in anticipation of her upcoming flight.

Possibly the worst casualty of PAL’s frequent flight cancellations was Ruthlyn Matusalem Estabaya, whose flight was cancelled nine times since January, forcing her to give up and switch airlines.

The last straw came when an anticipated special flight on May 19 did not push through. Ruthlyn got so mad that even when there were talks that a special flight would finally be arranged on May 26 she went ahead and bought a new ticket from Cebu Pacific.

She returned to Manila on Saturday, three days after the arranged PAL flight, but still happy that she was spared of further heartache.

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