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Consulate issues warning, PEYA posts apology over flights mess

20 December 2017

A distressed passenger 
By The SUN Staff

The Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong has advised the public against transacting with PEYA Travel, as hundreds more of the company’s customers who had hoped to be home in time for Christmas failed to board their flights on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

“The Consulate General of the Philippines in Hong Kong SAR is deeply concerned over the incidence of unissued and unconfirmed bookings of Filipino nationals supposedly purchased from PEYA Travel,” said a statement posted on the Consulate’s Facebook page at 7:15 pm on Dec. 19.

“In this regard, the public is advised not to transact with PEYA Travel until such time that this issue is resolved and all aggrieved parties have received just compensation.”

The statement urged the complainants to keep calm, while calling on PEYA Travel to take responsibility for the ticketing mess.

About two hours later, PEYA responded with an apology to all affected passengers, and said it was taking full responsibility for what happened.

“Makakaasa po kayo na pinagsusumikapan namin at paninindigan ang lahat ng responsibilidad kaugnay nito,” said the statement posted on PEYA’s Facebook page.

However, the apology fell largely on deaf ears, as most of those who responded gave vent to their anger at being left stranded at the airport, or uncertain about whether they could still fly home in time for the holidays. Most demanded a refund, while some called for sanctions against the travel agency.

One said it would have been her first time to spend Christmas with her family in 10 years, while another shared how frustrated she was that she may not have the chance to see and talk to her child who didn’t want to speak to her.

At PEYA’s shop at World Wide Plaza in Central, hundreds of irate customers demanded a refund after failing to board their flights, or learning that their bookings had been canceled by airlines reportedly because the agency failed to pay for their tickets.

Police kept constant watch at the shop, and at the close of office hours invited PEYA’s marketing manager Arnold Grospe for questioning at the Central Waterfront station.

Grospe who had been manning the shop solo since Monday when word of the booking mess spread, was allowed to leave the station about five hours later with no charges being laid.

Irate passengers swarmed PEYA's office
By mid-afternoon, more than 300 bumped off passengers and others who were scheduled to fly home from Dec 19 onwards with supposedly confirmed bookings had trooped to PEYA, waving so-called itinerary receipts at Grospe as they demanded their money back.

Grospe reportedly tried to appease the customers by promising a refund sometime after the New Year but did not specify the date.  
Grsospe faced the mad passnegers alone

He scribbled “Refund applied Dec 19” on the itinerary receipts then asked the complainants to sign below the notation. Some refused, saying it could be a ruse which PEYA could later claim as proof they had been paid back.    

A Caucasian employer who was one of the estimated 50 complainants packing PEYA’s small office insisted to get back the money he paid for his helper’s ticket. “I want a refund now,” he demanded angrily.

Another employer, a Hong Kong woman who declined to give her name, told The SUN she also asked Grospe to return her money, but he only replied: “You can shout at me but I can’t do anything.”

The employer said she had been sourcing her helpers’ air tickets from PEYA because it was reliable. “We have never had this kind of problem,” she said. For the Dec 23 flight, the employer paid more than $2,000 when she booked it for her maid in June.

But when the helper called Cathay Pacific to reconfirm her flight, an airline staff said her booking was not confirmed because no payment was ever received. PEYA said it was due to system glitch.

Grospe reportedly gave the same excuse to the other complainants, many of whom disbelieved him.

The employer would not believe that. “If it was indeed a system breakdown, would it last two months?” she exclaimed.

Police kept the crowd in check
Yet another Hong Kong employer, Mrs Cheng, went to World-Wide Plaza after her maid called her and told her about the fiasco. The helper bought her ticket in October and was due to take her vacation from Dec 22 but discovered her booking was cancelled for non-remittance of the payment.

One woman from Bacolod, carrying a year-old boy, cried as she vented her frustration at her fouled up travel plans. “This should be my first Christmas vacation is more than six years and my children are anticipating it,” she said.

The woman said she felt so bad because her flight was set for Dec 22, but, when she called the airline after hearing about the mess, she was told she had no booking. Yet, she had a supposedly confirmed itinerary receipt.

“This is too much. I’ve looked forward to this vacation. My children are waiting for me and now everything’s all muddled up,” she said.

Three batches of angry victims went to the Consulate on Dec 19 to seek help, but they were advised to take their complaints to the Travel Industry Council in North Point, a staff at the assistance to nationals section said.
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