Travel nightmare

Yesterday, I had hoped to enjoy the short-trip to Manila and start going around with my family. Our flight, PAL PR 1142, was scheduled to leave at 10:05 a.m. We were in the check-in queue at exactly 8 a.m., around number 10 in the line. We looked forward to a fun trip.

But it wasn’t a fun day for us. At 9:30 a.m., the p.a. system informed PAL passengers our plane was delayed. No word about what time it was expected to arrive. In another 30 minutes, the same announcement came over the p.a. system. That happened three or four times more. It was around 12:04 p.m. that the Airbus A321-200 landed.

A321 cabin

The cabin of the Airbus A321-200, PAL’s new aircraft.

With the delay, we expected the plane to leave as soon as the ground servicing was done. We were boarded at around 12:40 p.m. Our only consolation was that the aircraft was bigger, with wider seats and more legroom. It was one of PAL’s newer planes.

But it wasn’t until around 1:24 p.m. that the plane took off from Iloilo. We sat there for about half an hour after the cabin door had been shut. We could only sigh in relief when it finally went airborne. At least, I thought, we could still catch an hour or two of sunlight in the national capital.

As it turned out, a nightmare experience was unfolding for about 13 passengers, most of whom were seated in the rear portion of the aircraft. These passengers had a connecting flight to Vancouver, Canada that was to depart at 3 p.m. Anxious about not being left behind, they asked to be reseated in the front section of the plane in mid-flight. Their request was granted — 20 minutes before landing we were surprised by passengers lugging their hand carried bags toward the forward section.

That favor didn’t make things easier for these Vancouver-bound passengers. They did disembark the plane ahead of us. But then their checked-in luggage needed to be claimed at the carousel; the airline’s online system was down that day, and the luggage couldn’t be tagged to be transferred directly to the connecting flight.

The luggage carousel was again slow in bringing out the bags. We had to wait for about 40 minutes — for ours, that is — to claim our bags. As the Vancouver-bound passengers agonized with the slow burn of waiting, the p.a. system kept blaring that their flight was in the final phase of boarding. I could see the anxiety written on their faces. My family finally exited the arrivals hall at around 3:15.

The personal travel nightmare didn’t end there. The airport road traffic was light. But the pace turned turtle-speed once our car reached EDSA. And it took us another hour and a half to reach Mandaluyong City where we would be staying until the New Year.

It was my former Rotary Club buddy, Michael Bohlen, an expat from Great Britain, who reminded me about doing this piece about our shared experience yesterday. Indeed, we wasted a whole day for this trip. When we reached our destination, we had no more energy to go around. We hardly had time to brush our teeth and change into house clothes before exhaustion overcame us. We slept before 6 p.m.

This is how the holiday travel in the national capital can turn fun into a nightmare.


About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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