Palmes-Dennis: My first rate experience with PAL

Susan Palmes-Dennis

I DIDN'T expect to get sentimental when I flew home to Cagayan de Oro City on board the Philippine Airlines nearly two months ago to attend my father's burial.

I wrote in my past columns about changes I noticed in the government and the people in my country but I didn't discuss about the sentimental portion of the trip home to the City of Golden Friendship. Did I tell you that my husband Ronnie and I started on the wrong foot when the flight from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Newark, New Jersey, left without us and we were forced to cancel and instead went to JFK airport to catch a plane from there to Vancouver, Canada just to be home for the funeral?

No choice actually. But the unfortunate event for us meant the inconvenience turned into something fortunate for me. I was on board the Philippine Airlines flight from JFK New York to Vancouver and the same plane from Vancouver to Manila.

I was impressed with how the PAL staff handled their passengers with disability. Airplane personnel were courteous, smiling and represent the best among the Filipinos. The flight stewardess wore clean and freshly laundered blue skirts and checkered yellow upper blouses with hair neatly tied in one ponytail.

Their shoes were shiny and their appearance matched those seen in the posters of proud Pinoy workers. The same was true with the stewards and I felt proud of them. I was so proud that I kept on talking to Ronnie about Philippine Airlines as the official plane carrying the flag of the country.

The journey made me retrieve some of the information about PAL while I was still in the Philippines and my continued reading on the airline firm's history amid the economic depression that hit Asia in the early 80s. During the long trip back home, I tried to break the monotony of the flight which also encountered some turbulence by reading up on PAL.

The flight was nice and easy and we had enough room since there were vacant seats from the flight to JFK airport to Vancouver and especially to Vancouver to Manila. But the empty seats made me wonder why there were few passengers.

Either it wasn't peak season for PAL or business was slow but anyway I read in some posts in social media that a lot of Filipinos leaving for the US or other parts of the world don't like to fly PAL. They consider PAL flights to be expensive compared with airline ticket prices of other airlines servicing the Philippines. This is where my sense of patriotism came in. I was proud of being a passenger on a plane carrying the Philippine flag. It dawned on me that in our own little way we should patronize PAL in our travels.

The tickets may be expensive because the company may be trying to cover expenses or advertising to make it more competitive. It may also be trying to recover lost profit from the cancellation of some of its trips around the world.

Yet as Filipinos, we must patronize Philippine Airlines. It may not be the best compared to the rest but I believe that someday PAL may become the best airline not only in Asia but the world with flights to the US, Europe, Australia, Middle East and more domestic flights. Based on my reading, Philippine Airlines is owned by PAL Holdings, a holding company responsible for the airline's operations. PAL Holdings is in turn part of a group of companies owned by business tycoon Lucio Tan.

According to Wikipedia PAL employs 7,322 regular employees, including 450 pilots and 1,300 cabin crew as of January 2005. PAL is the 61st largest airline in the world in terms of revenue passenger kilometers flown, with over 16 million flown for 21 million available seat kilometers or an average load factor of 76 percent. Upon arrival in Manila, PAL service was good and I would like to extend my thanks to a certain PAL employee named Arianne--I forgot her last name--in the ticketing office at the Ninoy Aquino Airport.

There was a problem on transporting Ronnie’s portable concentrator that was used in making oxygen for his BPAP machine. Arianne helped us solve that problem and that's the kind of Filipino attitude that gives us reason why we should patronize PAL.

Being patriotic, I am calling on Filipinos living and working abroad to fill the seats of PAL in your next flight. I don’t know if my friend Felix Fontanilla is still working at PAL's Cagayan de Oro office but he too embodies the best of the Filipino worker's spirit.