By Juan Mercado
SAN FRANCISCO—“See for yourself,” the Philippine Airlines friend suggested. “Those digs about ‘plane always late’ or shabby service are history.”
PAL’s slogan is “Asia’s first airline.” Historically, that’s right on the button. It is equally true that early monopoly and avarice dissipated that edge. So were our leads in education, public health, a free press, etc.
Thus, for three decades that shabby reputation saw us and others keep PAL at arm’s length. We hop-scotched all over Asia then as a United Nations officer, invariably on other carriers. For flights to the United States, parents’ passes came from a son, a Northwest Airlines pilot.
“Before our knees give way, let’s revisit grandkids in San Francisco,” we told the wife. From jobs in different time zones, children were gathering there. They gifted us with round-trip business class tickets for July 10 on PAL.
We’re grateful they did. Our obsolete image of PAL crumbled on this trip. The airline has reacquired its competitive edge. Most staffers were efficient and warm. Food wasn’t the slop that one dimly remembered.
We almost missed this tutorial, though. Blame soured booking. “Your parents must fly on July 12 instead,” the lady told our son when he paid for the tickets. She garbled scheduling, and her costing math flopped.
That meant just an additional thousand pesos. Or was it two? “May I pay the excess recomputed fare in dollars?” our son asked. No, snapped the lady. Her attitude was: that’s your worry.
“Nada te turbe / Todo se pasa,” Teresa of Avila says. Let nothing disturb you/ All things are passing.” A sour lemon turns up in every bushel.
Swift fouled-up baggage recovery in San Francisco dulled that acrid experience. Jet lagged, I hefted a similar-looking but wrong bag from the carousel.
“No problem, sir,” said the young man on our return to PAL’s counter. “It will be up in 10 minutes,” he cheerfully added.
And it was. “The wrong bag?” he asked. Our daughter called the name stenciled on the bag. Ms (name deleted) picked it up.
“That’s my ex-wife,” the PAL official said with a wry smile. It’s all in the family. How Pinoy.
That’s a good landing, for a flight that took off 15 hours late. “Don’t worry, sir,” PAL called early on. “You’re rebooked for tomorrow.” They e-mailed the new ticket within half an hour.
Was it yesterday when Garuda’s man at Sukarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta said: “Your 8 a.m. flight is delayed until 4 p.m.” “Today or tomorrow?” we asked. Haryono Suyono, who became minister in President Suharto’s government, explained the mess: “Garuda means great airline under Dutch administration.”
“Punctuality is the courtesy of kings,” Louis XIII once said. A mint-new President Corazon Aquino stunned meetings by coming on the dot. Imelda Marcos would sweep in one or two hours late. That’s “Filipino time.”
“What’s that?” a UN colleague asked. He was being posted in Manila. “It’s like daylight saving time. Only it operates backwards.”
From “15 Ways To Beat Filipino Time,” we read to him “Learn algebra.” He looked puzzled. “If x is the time to leave the house and ETA is the estimated time of arrival, then x = ETA plus one hour and a half.”
Other suggested methods: (a) “Conserve water. Don’t take too long in the shower.” (b) “The first call you’ll receive is not a signal to leave the house. It means you’re already 30 minutes late.” (c) “Avoid the photo-finish arrival. That’s five minutes before the person waiting for you decides to go home.”
But it doesn’t work in airlines, business and 21st-century transactions. Time is money. Delays can swamp firms in red ink.
Flying from Japan’s $2.6-billion Ibaraki Airport costs less, Forbes magazine notes. But what passengers gain in money, they lose in time. It takes an hour and a half to reach Ibaraki by train and bus from central Tokyo. You can fly from Haneda to Sapporo in that time.
On the bullet train’s 40th anniversary, the company apologized for registering an average delay of six seconds. Japan Airlines worried that recent mishaps may have stemmed, “in part, from its excessive focus on keeping to schedule,” The New York Times reported.
“Japanese should relax... But they rush to catch a train even if another is coming in two minutes,” notes Shigeru Haga, professor of transportation at Rikkyo University. “There is no flexibility in our society; people are not flexible, either.”
Is there on the Pinoy side of the spectrum “extreme flexibility”? Why do Filipinos abroad show up on time and meekly line up? At home, we jump queues in movies, malls, parking lots—even when receiving Holy Communion. Perhaps, the shrinks can tell us.
“Northwest Airlines had the best on-time performance among US legacy carriers over the last two months, followed by Hawaiian Airlines, the US transport department says,” I told our NWA pilot-son as he greeted us in San Francisco. “Congratulations.”
He waved that aside with a joke. “Probably, it’s because we don’t take off on Filipino time?”
Caused Travel headache for 141 passengers at airport
RICHMOND - About 141 passengers spent a long day at the Vancouver International Airport. A Philippine Airlines flight that was supposed to come in from Las Vegas and connect in Vancouver -- never made it due to mechanical [engine flameout] issues.
The passengers were told to stay in the airport because their luggage and paperwork has already been processed.
Arrangements were finally made to fly them out of Vancouver and to Manila at about 1:55 a.m. on Saturday. The original flight was supposed to land late Friday night, it then got delayed to 6 a.m. Saturday. [The Las Vegas plane never came. They were carried from another flight coming from Manila].
Technical Problems haunts PAL's Long Haul operations
July 11, 2009
Vancouver (Canada) - Philippine Airlines Airbus A340-300, registration RP-C3430 from Manila (Philippines) to Vancouver,BC (Canada), was overhead the Pacific when the crew decided to shut one of the four engines down. Oakland Oceanic Control advised Vancouver about the shut down at about 20:00Z. When the crew checked in with Vancouver center, they advised no assistance and emergency services were needed. The airplane landed safely on Vancouver's runway 26R 83 minutes later.
The Canadian TSB reported on Jul 20th, that the crew noticed a low oil pressure indication for engine #3 (inner right, CFM56) and shut the engine down. Maintenance found oil droplets at the lube pump filter drain during an engine spin. The plug was re-tightened, the engine checked with no metal found in the oil, an engine run performed without any leaks, and the aircraft returned to service.
The A343 stayed in Las Vegas for two days for mandatory repair works before it flew back home.