The Unwelcome Phone PAL

During the Christmas season, when everyone was planning Christmas parties and reunions, and our family is all set to travel to Antique to spend Christmas with my side of the family, we received a very important email the night before our flight. We were given notice by the Philippine Airlines that our 6:00 AM flight the next day, December 19, was rescheduled to next week, December 26 (read more about that here: PAL’s 10 Hour Notice: The Story of the Cancelled Flight).

It was past eight in the evening. Airport and ticketing offices were closed and the only way we can talk to someone instantly about the issue was by calling PAL’s hotline number.

The problem, however, was that calling from our place to Manila entails long distance charges – that is, if we have a landline phone, which we do not have.

Since I didn’t want to spend money on phone calls and we have a MagicJack number that allows us to call USA numbers free, I called PAL’s global reservation hotline for USA/Canada at 1-800-435-9725 instead. I remember talking to Tagalog-speaking agents there before so I thought that they were also based in the Philippines and PAL’s just using a toll-free virtual phone number that connects to the Philippines.

Unfortunately, all I got from that call that lasted 5 minutes and 28 seconds was the information that I needed to call the Manila hotline number, as they do not deal with domestic flights. I was really hoping not to spend money on calls. Bummer!

Left with no choice, I begrudgingly used my cellphone to call PAL’s hotline at a rate of P7.50 per minute.

“Mabuhay, Welcome to Philippine Airlines!” said a female voice prompt after the first ring. If only I didn’t have to go through three prompts in order to reach a customer service representative, I would have felt better.

The first prompt was to choose whether one’s calling about (#1) Mabuhay Miles inquiry, (#2) arrival and departure information, or (#3) flight bookings. After I pressed “3” for flight bookings, I still have to choose whether it is for (#1) economy or (#2) business class booking. Just when I thought I’m good to go after choosing “1” because I heard another ring, I finally had to choose whether I agree with their policy before I get connected to an agent. What the heck?! Am I even allowed to choose, “No, I don’t agree.”

call-logs
Call log of our calls to PAL’s Hotline Number while we were following-up our flight. Total Cost: P787.50.

Anyway, our call logs show that I called PAL eight times that night and once again in the morning. After that many calls, I noticed the pattern already. During the first part of the call, the agent asks for the caller’s name, booking reference number, flight details and passenger information for verification purposes. If you make inquiries, you’ll be asked to hold “for a moment.” Once you start getting into their nerves, they’ll ask to put you on hold “for two minutes” wherein they will be back after five minutes or so. Keep pestering them, and they’ll put you on hold for more than 10 minutes and just end the call while you’re patiently waiting for them to be back! Either that or you have to call again after an hour.

To make the long story short…

  • Was our flight cancelled? Yes, the PR2205 flight was cancelled. “Reschedule” was probably their way to compensate passengers for the flight cancellations.
  • Was my sister’s flight rescheduled, too? Yes, my sister and her baby’s schedules were also moved but unlike us who were rescheduled to December 26, theirs were to December 29!
  • What options they did offer us? They offered to rebook us (my husband, daughters, sister, niece and I) to the next available flight, December 22 for free.
  • Did we accept their offer? A resounding “no”. We were adamant to fly out on December 19. Since they cancelled the flight originating from Clark, we asked them to reroute us to the MNL-ILO flight instead.
  • Did they allow the rerouting? Yes, rerouting was approved but we needed to pay for the terminal fee and fare difference. Of course, knowing our rights, we demanded that we pay nothing.
So, what are our bad experiences with our new phonePAL? A lot! Being placed on hold for a long time when you know that the clock is ticking at P7.50 per minute, for one. Also, being asked the same questions repeatedly and having to explain again every time you call. And, yes, doing so even when you’ve just talked to that same agent about 10 minutes ago (I remember you, Queenie!). 

What pissed me off the most was that after I asked an agent to give me the exact amount of the fare difference that they wanted us to pay, he put me on hold for about seven minutes. When he came back, he apologized because their system is still slow and that he needed to place me on hold again while he checks. Guess what’s next? After waiting again for more than 10 minutes, he ended the call without any warning (that’s the 12:10 AM call for 26 minutes and 41 seconds in the call log). Who’s not going to be mad at that situation?

At about 2:35 AM, as I was still waiting for my temper to cool down before I call PAL again, my sister called me to check on our flight status. I told her I can’t sleep knowing the uncertainty of the situation. Traveling is already stressful. Having to travel with kids and an infant makes it more taxing. In addition, we have to take into consideration the people who are going to pick us up at the Iloilo airport before we travel by car to Antique.

By 3:41 in the morning, I was chatting with my father about our travel plans (he’s the one who’ll pick us up at the airport, we just don’t know which airport it’s gonna be) when I received a call from my sister. “Just proceed to NAIA because we’re in the Manila-Ilolo six o’clock PM flight,” she said. Well, that’s great news. Too sleepy to ask for details, I just went on to snatch forty winks (a.k.a. sleep).

After three hours, my husband and I called PAL again to confirm our flight schedule. This time, Mrs. Nice Lady was gone, as I already got some tips from my sister. When the agent asked me what my concern was, I told her to read their record. When she asked if she can place me on hold, I told her I don’t want to wait while she puts me on hold. When she told me that she’ll check on our request. I made her explain what request she’s talking about. “Request for rerouting,” she said. No, we’re done with that. It’s been approved already. We’re just waiting on whether the rerouting without additional costs was approved. She asked me to call again after an hour. Again?! Told her, it’s the same thing that they’ve been saying since last night.

We explicitly told the agent that we are not mad at her. However, we’re quite frustrated with PAL’s system of handling the situation. It is not our fault that our flight was cancelled. Mother nature has nothing to do with it, too. Those tickets were booked and paid for months ago. Being notified through email that our flight was cancelled only 10 hours before our flight, that’s terrible!

We already spent 787.50 pesos just on phone calls but seems like we’d reached a dead end. Nothing’s happening with these calls, I needed to speak to somebody in person!

You can read the next part of our adventure here: MNL-ILO Flight, In or Out? or get the shorter version of this escapade here: Our Stressful Quest to Fly After a Flight Cancellation.


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