MNL-ILO Flight, In or Out?

After being notified by Philippine Airlines (PAL) through email of flight cancellation only 10 hours before the flight, and spending almost 800 pesos on our unwelcome phonePAL, it seems that we’ve reached a dead end in our quest to fly to Antique/Iloilo for the holidays. Rerouting was approved but PAL requires us to pay for the fare difference and terminal fees.

Although my sister instructed us to proceed to NAIA 2 today, it’s clear from our 7AM phone conversation with the PAL agent that we’re not guaranteed to fly out in their 6:10 PM flight to Iloilo tonight. We’re not comfortable traveling from Clark to NAIA 2 with two kids and luggage in tow during the Christmas rush traffic armed with just “ifs” and “maybes”.

Hubby and I initially planned to finalize our tickets at PAL’s ticket/airport office at the Clark International Airport once they open at 8:00 AM. With the clock ticking, however, we agreed that taking our kids and luggage with us to the airport would save us the hassle of fetching them later if we’re able to secure our tickets. Plus, we can easily board the Point-to-Point (P2P) bus at the airport when we needed to.

Of course, when you’re in a hurry, everything just seems so slow. Traffic lights are always red. Traffic aides made us wait for a longer time, and we just keep getting behind a slow vehicle in our lane.

Thus, it was almost nine o’clock in the morning when we reached the airport. Right off the bat, we noticed that the P2P bus to NAIA was about to leave. Impulsively, we decided to board the P2P bus instead of going to the PAL Office at Clark. With a sudden surge of optimism, we believed everything would work out fine. When that happens, at least, we’re already there at the Manila airport, right?

Four hours later, I was mentally kicking myself for rashly deciding to get on board the bus. We did not only miss lunch, we realized that we have not eaten breakfast yet. Now, we’re stuck in traffic en route to NAIA 2 without plane tickets for a flight that’s gonna leave in less than five hours.

Hungry. Tired. Stressed!

sitting in the bus, mother and daughter
Selfie time with my daughter inside the Genesis P2P bus en route to NAIA 2.

When we finally reached NAIA 2 at around 1:30 PM, it seemed like everything was in chaos. We were greeted by construction works, drivers not stopping for people crossing on the pedestrian lanes, and the crowd of travelers with their welcome/send-off parties during the Christmas season. Fortunately, we didn’t have to walk far as the bus dropped us off near the departure area.

Rushing to the elevator, we realized that it’s almost full. I went ahead while hubby and the kids stayed to wait for the next trip.

Consequently, I was the only one who went to the wrong office.

After alighting at the elevator, I was greeted with the signs. Left for Domestic Flights. Right for the International Flights and Ticketing. I turned right.

I didn’t wait long, as just a few moments after entering the Ticketing Office, a customer service representative entertained me right away. However, any idea about good fortune starting to smile at us was immediately crushed when I heard her say the same thing as what the other agents in their hotline told us before.

No, we still don’t have tickets for the MNL-ILO flight. Yes, our request for rerouting was approved but we need to pay for fare difference. Plus, more! This time, they can only seat four passengers in the economy class for a fare difference of 7,400+ pesos each passenger while the other passenger can be accommodated in the Business Class for an additional 9,700+ pesos. She didn’t mention about the infant-on-lap price (my niece).

If I wasn’t stressed out enough, that put me in a full-scale panic mode. Just between my hubby, kids and me, that’s almost 30,000 pesos already!

As expected, when hubby arrived later (they turned left after getting off the elevator and was in the Domestic Flights area already), he wasn’t amenable to the idea of paying such exorbitant amount. Even the suggestion that we just accept the free rebooking of our CRK-EUQ flight to December 22 and then go back home to Pampanga that day put a scowl on his face.

I called my sister (she was still on her way to the airport) and told her that I’m willing to wave the white flag already. By then, I was weary and, did I mention hungry, exhausted and sleepy? Even my husband’s scowl started getting into my nerves that I started to glower at him as well. I told my sister that she can go ahead. We’ll just follow in three days time.

Well, her reaction wasn’t pleasant, too. A verbal clash of two stressed-out strong-willed women somehow revived my sinking spirit. In hindsight, I was so glad that my sister didn’t let me give up. Actually, her lecture about our rights as passengers whose flights were cancelled within 24 hours gave me second wind.

So, I went to the customer service agent once again, asking for options. I gave her a recap of all the hassles and stress that we (and those people who are going to pick us up at the airport) had to go through since last night – just because PAL decided to cancel its flight during an important season of the year.

Just to be clear, I created no scene, as I didn’t have the energy anymore to even raise my voice. However, I plead guilty to guilt-tripping. We really needed to fly out today. Not on any day, but today.

If my guilt-tripping wasn’t enough, here comes my hubby to help me out. I don’t know how he does it but he could be quite persuasive and knew exactly what words to say. At that point, the agent was already apologetic towards us. However, I think that hubby telling her to check our rights as passengers of cancelled flights also did some wonders.

The agent, whose name we later learned was Bianca, explained to us that this matter was supposed to be handled by the Customer Relations Office, instead of the Ticketing, as we already have a ticket. However, she promised to try to fix it from her end so that we don’t need to go from one office to another.

She then excused herself and went to talk to someone. I overheard her say that based on their records, we called PAL numerous times already and that we were rerouted but we weren’t given some sort of guarantee (sorry, I forgot the exact term, if it was booking guarantee, price guarantee or some other term).

While I was sitting and waiting for Bianca to be back, my gaze fell on my visibly exhausted husband sitting in front of me with his eyes closed. Not sure if he was taking a nap, I closed my eyes as well, intent on catching some zzzs myself. It was at that moment that I felt God’s presence. In the midst of the chaos, I started praying – earnestly. Please help us fly to Iloilo today. Please don’t make us pay for anything. Please let us use your blessings to help others instead of enriching PAL.

After fifteen minutes or so, Bianca came back and told us that PAL might be able to accommodate the six of us without the need to pay for the fare difference in their 8PM flight. “Might,” as she’s also waiting for the final approval. We told her that we’re willing to take it; anytime that day was good as long as we don’t need to pay extra.

We were still talking when Bianca’s  cellphone rang. She excused herself once again to take the call.

About a minute or so later, Bianca came back to the table. She looked happy as she was writing our booking reference numbers and the term “CRO Office” on a notepad while explaining to us that we can now proceed to the CRO Office to get our boarding passes for the 6PM flight. Our request for rerouting without paying for any fare difference was approved.

Hubby and I couldn’t believe our ears. We actually asked Bianca three times if we really are not going to pay anything, to which she smilingly answered yes at every instance.

Thank God for answered prayers.

However, we still encountered a snag. Read about it here: Home At Last! or see the shorter version of this whole saga here: Our Stressful Quest to Fly After a Flight Cancellation.

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