Yesterday, a horror story about a Philippine Airlines flight from Bangkok to Manila was published prominently on the ABS-CBN website.
A reporter recounted his first-hand experience of this flight, which was delayed due to technical difficulties at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport so that the plane was reportedly forced to stay on the tarmac for for over five hours, unmoving and with the air-conditioning functioning on a sole emergency cooling, and all the passengers stuck inside.
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It was reportedly sweltering hot inside the airplane. And in handling this situation, some inflight crew were even crying, and the PAL pilot was making incomprehensible comments about how they'd already waited ten hours on the tarmac in Mumbai airport prior to this (I don't know what the connection of this is to passengers on a Bangkok-Manila flight) and how he valued his life above everyone else's.
This is of course the account of a journalist on the plane, published on ABS-CBN's website, and I am just re-telling the story which has appeared online.
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Nevertheless, this is the nth story I have heard about a Philippine-based airline that has been paralyzed in such a situation, perhaps lacking direction from head office on what to do in this kind of situation and also concerned about the financial implications of allowing passengers stuck on an unmoving plane to deplane.
It will cost money after all to rebook passengers, find them hotels to stay in, and offload baggage.
A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
FOR AIRLINE PASSENGERS
However there is also a human rights issue and a basic customer service issue involved in this. Passengers should not be kept unwillingly in an unmoving plane, under dire or uncomfortable circumstances, for over 60 minutes INMHO.
This is a PR nightmare, not to mention a failure in decent service. And if I had been in such a situation, I would never ride such an airline again.
PLEASE FIX YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE
AND EMERGENCY SITUATION PROTOCOLS
BEFORE OPENING MORE NEW ROUTES
Philippine-based airlines really need to improve their handling of such unforeseen situations before they start opening new routes. The road to the NAIA 1 is plastered with billboards from local airlines proclaiming a new route opening somewhere in the world.
But frankly, I wouldn't ride any of these airlines until I'm sure that their rules for passenger handling in emergencies and unforeseen circumstances are inked in stone and that pilots and crew follow these procuedures and don't go off the grid by crying in front of passengers or making strange announcements over the PA.
A GOOD EXPERIENCE
WITH QATAR FROM
JOHANNESBURG TO TOKYO HANEDA
I'm on an international flight about 40 times a year at least but I always make sure to take only the major international carriers even if this means a stopover somewhere rather than a direct flight. And in all my flights every year, I have had only two similar experiences of unforeseen circumstances.
Once I was in Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport stuck at the airport departure gate waiting for the go-signal to board a Qatar Airlines flight to Doha. We waited for about three hours while the plane was suddenly checked for difficulties.
It was inconvenient and irritating but at least we weren't inside an airplane but in an airport where we could move freely about. In fact we business class passengers returned to the lounge where at least we could catch up on work and have a meal.
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QATAR'S FLIGHT IS CANCELED
FOR THE NEXT DAY
But after three hours, Qatar decided to move the flight to the next day and all passengers were transported in an orderly fashion to nearby hotels. The business class group got billeted in the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel in Johannesburg airport which is a three-minute walk across the arrivals terminal, and we got nice rooms and proper food.
The next day -- it seems the Qatar personnel had been working all night -- I received a call over breakfast that we'd been transferred to business class on Cathay Pacific for a straight flight to Hong Kong from Johannesburg, and then from Hong Kong on to Haneda Airport in Tokyo still with Cathay Pacific.
Painless, smooth and we arrived well on time as if we had done Qatar to Tokyo instead. That same morning, everyone scheduled to leave the day before was either on the same Qatar flight flying out early in the morning or transferred to another code-share airline with minimal fuss. This is how things should be.
KNOW HOW TO MAKE PASSENGERS HAPPY
Then there are the major Japanese airlines like Japan Airlines and ANA.
The Japanese airlines are almost always on-time like clockwork that you can plan your arrivals and departures in Japan around their schedules. In addition, their stewardesses, especially on the international routes, are kind, courteous and professional.
GREAT SERVICE ON JAPAN AIRLINES
You never hear them giggling or talking about private matters in the galley. I ride Japan Airlines almost every other week, and I've never had anything but wonderful service. Which is why I keep riding them.
And when they're late for arrival or departure for 10 minutes or so -- yes, 10 minutes -- they apologise over the intercom system profusely for the delay.
And this makes my never-ending #Travelife so much easier.