It was going to be my second time to celebrate my birthday with Maxx in Boracay! The last one was 2 years ago and we both agreed that November is really the perfect time to go there because of the beautiful weather and it’s almost empty shores especially along Station 1 of White Beach where we like to swim.
Our birthday weekend didn’t start so smoothly. A few weeks ago, Maxx called me up to let me know that she had to cancel her trip because of work. I was sad but I understood. Besides, Jim was going with me anyway. Elmo and Frank were also supposed to come along but had to beg off because of other engagements. I asked my friends if they could go with Jim and I since 4 days in Boracay sounded really fun but most of them could not leave work! At the start of the week though, Maxx confirmed that she was able to fix her schedule to come with us from Nov 22-24 instead of the original Nov 21-24. I didn’t want Maxx or Jim to feel like the third wheel (for when Jim and I start PDA-ing hahaha or when Maxx and I start girl talk) so I double checked with my friends and I was so happy that one of our best friends, Cholo, was game to go! He was set to leave 3PM of Nov 21, Friday. We were all set!
My flight with Jim was scheduled to leave at 8:40AM of Nov 21, Friday with Philippine Airlines. Because of all our previous flight “horror stories,” we made sure to be on time. You know what, I’m just going to give you a timeline of what happened so you can put yourself in my
— SAABAE (@saabmagalona) November 21, 2014
06:00 – Take a quick shower.
06:15 – Look at your stuff and be proud because you’ve been packed since last night.
06:40 – In the elevator, Jim says “Don’t. Panic. Slowly move towards me.” and when you do, you see a huge cockroach on the wall right beside where you were previously standing. (I believe this was an omen for things to come. Yuck, OA yung “omen” haha)
07:00 – Call up PAL on the ride to the airport because your ticket does not indicate which terminal you’re supposed to depart from. (It’s common knowledge that domestic flights are always via Terminal 3 but I just wanted to double check and what if I’m not from here, right? They should really put that on the ticket.)
07:05 – Confirm that flight leaves from Terminal 3 and that you can go straight to boarding if you are already checked-in online. You have already checked-in online so you’re happy things are going perfectly.
07:20 – Arrive at NAIA and argue with Jim that you’re already checked in via web so you can go straight to the boarding gate like the girl from the hotline said.
07:21 – Be proven wrong when you are told to still pass by the desk where they print out your boarding pass on a thick piece of paper. Cry on the inside because you thought you were doing your part to decrease waste by downloading your boarding pass on your phone.
07:30 – Eat spam, eggs, and toast.
08:00 – Go to the boarding gate since boarding time is at 8:10AM.
08:10 – Be told that flight has been delayed and that boarding time has been moved to 8:50AM. (It’s nothing new so we just said “oh, okay!” and sat down trying to entertain ourselves)
08:55 – Start boarding a shuttle that will take you to your plane.
09:05 – You are just standing with your heavy bags because you refused to check them in. The shuttle is still not moving.
09:15 – Feel a bit claustrophobic because seriously, the shuttle doors are closed and nothing is happening while you are standing very close to strangers like sardines.
09:20 – Jim says “let’s go!” out loud and kind of starts a mini-mutiny as other people in the shuttle start to fuss about being kept in a non-moving shuttle for 20 minutes now. The lady from PAL is on the other side of the shuttle beside the driver, with her back turned to all of you. She finally faces you and when you ask what was happening, she says she will check and steps out of the shuttle.
09:25 – Lady from PAL comes back and says they are just “waiting for clearance” and other passengers start raising their voices asking why we were asked to board the shuttle if the aircraft was not even ready. One passenger even asks, “kaninong kabobohan ito?!” and you are asked by the irate foreigners beside you to translate what was happening.
09:30 – Another lady from PAL enters the shuttle (as if it wasn’t already packed) and says you are going back into the airport because there’s something wrong with the aircraft. On the way back in, Jim says “ang sama naman ng service niyo..” to a guy from Philippine Airlines near the door. In response, the guy avoids eye contact, just smirks and blows a bit of air out his nose. You receive no apologies for being kept standing in that shuttle for over half an hour.
09:35 – You go to the desk and give feedback to the ladies of PAL who refuse to empathize with you. You say, “I wish you guys would let us know what’s happening as it happens and not just let us stand and wait until the very last minute like we are just bodies and not people. No one is even apologizing for that 30-minute wait.” The girl looks at you with dead eyes. You ask, “So you really won’t apologize for how the staff treated us like hostages out there?” Girl continues to look at you with dead eyes and gives a small smile like she is singing a Taylor Swift song in her head while you are complaining (they must be so used to complaints so they learn to tune you out). Give up, ask for her name and go back to your boarding gate.
09:40 – Tweet about experience, receive apology from PAL who asks you to DM them details. Give name of employee who was rude to you. Nothing crazy, just straight up feedback.
10:48 – Entertain yourselves. Don’t go to the bathroom in case there’s any news about your flight.
11:18 – Go back to the desk (the original rude girl is gone because they changed shifts already) and ask about the flight. Girl says the new aircraft will arrive at 11:20AM.
11:19 – Go back to Jim at boarding gate 131 and let him know what the girl said. Jim looks at his watch and says it’s 11:19. You shrug and wait for further announcements patiently. You do not listen to music, you do not go to the bathroom. You listen to the millions of announcements while waiting for something about your own flight.
11:56 – You finally hear an announcement about a flight from Manila to Caticlan but instead of PR 2043 the announcement says flight PR 2049. You don’t want to take any chances so you still go to the desk and ask if your flight is finally boarding. It’s a little chaotic by the desk because there are passengers complaining, raising their voices about how their flight to Caticlan (the airport nearest Boracay) has been re-routed to Kalibo (1.5 hours away from Boracay). You ask 3 different girls from the staff who just keep passing you by and saying “wait lang po” making you feel like they have more important things to do.
12:02 – One of them finally gets back to you only to say your flight just took off.
12:03 - Dolly zoom moment
Seriously, guys… Say it with me: ANYARE?! They said they called our names but COME ON I was listening intently and I was at the boarding gate (the one listed on our boarding pass). Apparently they were boarding at gate 132 which was just about 100 meters away from where we were sitting. And I had just asked the girl about our flight at 11:19AM so obviously I was right there, waiting and ready to board.
Maybe it’s possible that I missed an announcement for flight PR2043 because I had been at the airport for 5 hours already and you can’t expect me to listen to each and every one of the announcements of all flights, even from different airlines. But I insist that I was listening very well, not distracted by anything especially after the girl said the aircraft was about to land shortly. It was impossible for me to miss hearing my name or Jim’s. It’s protocol for all flights to have a last call for passengers who are still not on the plane. It was incredibly ridiculous to hear that our flight took off without us, it made me feel like I was in the twilight zone.
Hey, NAIA! Here’s an idea: perhaps have a screen with updated flight details on the walls instead of flat screens with NBA games showing? Actually, Jim really liked the TVs airing NBA HD so why not have both? If not possible, maybe calibrate your priorities? Especially since the gates were so crowded because of so many delayed flights. It really was like a chaotic refugee camp.
Finally, a guy named Christopher Gomez was the only one who was helpful. Everybody else was avoiding eye contact, it was seriously the most WTF moment ever. Hindi naman ako nagsaskandalo doon sa airport but I was understandably asking for an explanation of how this happened. Our conspiracy theory is that they wanted to get revenge for my Direct Message to @flyPAL and the girls really conspired for us to miss our flight. Nakakaloka naman siguro kung ganon talaga ang nangyari but nobody could give us any explanation so we had to make one up to keep us from going insane. Christopher put us on another flight (PR 2049) that was about to leave but re-routed to Kalibo. He was very helpful in letting us know that the girls behind the desk had previously told him that I was on flight PR 2043 and that they pointed out to where I was seated before our original flight took off. This proves that they knew where I was but did not make any effort to call me if they really did make a last call. Christopher said he would have called me himself but he was on the runway helping other flights board. He was a very busy man doing the job of the girls na naka-kumpol lang sa likod ng desk avoiding eye contact with every customer. Hey, PAL, maybe you should cut down on quantity of employees and focus on quality?
13:20 – Board flight PR 2049
Admittedly, I have never flown PAL to Boracay because it’s ridiculously expensive compared to other airlines but Maxx had an agency book her flight and I wanted to be on the same one. So finally we were boarding the other flight (PR 2049). We were on the plane seated at the very front and it looked like we were the last passengers to board. We asked the flight attendant about what happened and she, although very nice, did not have clear answers. She said she thinks all flights to Caticlan were re-routed to Kalibo except for the one that we missed. Ewan ko ba. Basta we were on the plane waiting patiently, again, “for clearance.” Some of the foreigners stood up beside us, trying to get some air from outside the open cabin door because the aircraft was not turned on (no aircon). The Americans were getting angry and asking what the hold up was and we realized that they had been on the plane for maybe no less than 20 minutes already. Finally, a man in uniform came in and says we needed to “de-plane” because there was something wrong with the aircraft.
13:25 – De-plane flight PR 2049
Hey PAL, how about “waiting for clearance” before attempting to board your passengers? JUST A THOUGHT. We didn’t realize how long the other people had been waiting on that plane until we let them all out before standing up. Our bags were inside the overhead compartment and we just wanted them all to exit before we stood up since they had been there longer. There were people drenched in sweat from sitting at the very back of the plane. There was one American that asked about his checked-in baggage, making sure it would be transferred to the new aircraft. I was right not to check-in our bags.
13:40 – Stand right next to Christopher of PAL so you are sure you don’t miss this one. Think about Cholo’s flight with AirAsia booked at 3:05PM. It was booked the day before the flight and cost half of what you paid. Granted it was Manila-Kalibo but it didn’t entail waiting 6 hours and still being re-routed to Kalibo after all.
14:40 - Finally take off.
16:15 – Get on a van going to the port (PAL’s treat, rightfully so)
17:40 – Boat to Boracay. Think about how you were supposed to be at the exact same place but at 9:45AM instead of 5:40PM.
18:30 – Get to your hotel in Boracay. Feel bad about how you lost a whole day at the beach care of Philippine Airlines. You could have just gone the next day so you didn’t have to pay the hotel for an extra night.
In the end, PAL e-mailed me apologies and offered a free ticket from Manila-Caticlan or from Caticlan-Manila. I hope they make adjustments to their services in case I decide to accept the offer.
I told Jim we shouldn’t let that whole experience ruin our trip and that at least it would be an interesting story to tell. So here is my piece – I hope that horrible experience at least makes an interesting blog post. Actual Boracay Birthday blog post to follow, this one just deserves its own space on the Internet. Mabuhay!