Belated birthday greetings to Ms. Connie ‘Lupe’ Bungag, the amiable head of the Public Affairs Office of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA). Greetings from your PAO family and friends and the staff of Media Affairs Division.
Cathay Pacific Airways management needs to do something about its policy on handling elderly passengers.
Last October 22, two of its regular, business class passengers who are both senior citizens were subjected, unnecessarily, to undue embarrassment and inconvenience while waiting to board their 12:30 p.m. flight to Hong Kong via CX-900.
The said passengers, who are both Chinese-Filipinos and frequent flyers, had left the said airline’s business class lounge minutes before the slated boarding time which was 11:55 p.m. Since they arrived early at the assigned gate -- Gate 112 -- and the staff were yet to begin boarding the passengers, the two tried looking for seats at the boarding gate.
To their dismay, the said two passengers could not find any since many of the waiting passengers put their bags on the supposed available seats.
The duo’s companion helped the two elderly passengers by talking to a lady personnel in blue uniform and asking the latter politely if the two senior citizens could be provided with seats. The lady personnel left and never came back. Instead, the couple and their companion saw her already doing something else.
Seeing his elderly friends already getting tired from standing too long and since nothing had happened to their request, their companion again politely asked the lady in blue to allow the two to occupy two of the several available seats right behind the boarding personnel counter, where wheelchair attendants were also seated while preoccupied with their cellphones. The said lady personnel took the boarding passes of the two passengers and had them verified and stamped. She then told the two that they can sit in the said area and join the wheelchair attendants.
The two passengers have barely warmed their seats when another lady staff, this time in red, told the two passengers that they could not occupy the said seats, without offering any alternative seats where they could transfer. She merely stopped when the two passengers’ companion told her that it was the lady personnel in blue who had allowed the duo to sit there.
It’s totally hard to understand why the staff concerned would not tell the passengers to remove their bags from the chairs and allow the two elderly passengers to take the seats instead. After all, this is what the chairs were there for -- to provide the passengers with seats. Also, I’m sure these insensitive passengers would not mind since we’re talking of senior citizens here.
The rights and privileges of senior citizens may not be spelled out clearly and specifically in the passengers’ bill of rights but it is definitely incumbent upon better-abled passengers to assist the elderly every way they possibly can. If I were there, notwithstanding that I am a woman, I would even have offered my own seat for them.
Moreso, on the part of the airline concerned, in this case, Cathay Pacific. The said two passengers were not only senior citizens. They are frequent flyers and happen to be regular, ‘business class’ patrons. Even if they were not, they deserve to be accommodated, specially if the request is as basic as being given a seat while waiting to be boarded.
Naturally, such kinds of requests will be coursed through the staff of the airline who, in turn, are expected to find ways and talk the other passengers into giving up the seats being occupied by their bags for the sake of the elderly passengers who badly and more necessarily need them. In the case at hand, not only did the staff ignore the request but also offered no solution or apology to the couple for failure on their part to do what needed to be done.
Anyway, I myself went to the same gate later. I asked the lady staff manning the same boarding counter -- Cebu Pacific was the one already using the gate then -- if senior citizens may use the vacant seats behind her in case all the chairs are already occupied. She said it’s a ‘case-to-case basis’ and the decision is totally up to them, stressing that if the passengers concerned are senior citizens, pregnant or physically-challenged, she would allow them to use the seats behind the counter for humanitarian reasons.
See? I wonder which part of ‘humanitarian reasons’ do the Cathay Pacific staff members find difficult to understand?
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