BREAKING THROUGH: Philippine Air Line’s rara avis

HERCULES CITY – A rare bird is hard to find. But not in the Philippine Airlines where I had a first hand experience with one. 

 I take my hat off to Ms. Cielo Villaluna, the spokesperson of PAL. 

 She’s a rara avis. With her in the PAL organization, our country’s flag carrier airline is lucky and in good hands. 

 While in the Philippines during a recent visit, my wife and I were a beneficiary of Ms. Villaluna’s good-heartedness. 

 The airfare covering our return flight to the US was saddled by penalty fees and related charges after several rebookings. 

 In my calculation, with the penalty and rebooking fees slapped on the unused portions of our roundtrip tickets, it would have been cheaper buying new return tickets for each of us. 

 But Ms. Cielo heard about our predicament and she responded. 

 The former RPN-9 TV primetime anchor readily came to the aid of a journalist in distress! 

 I thank my old friend Rolly ’Lakay’ Gonzalo, former National Press Club of the Philippines prexy, for bringing my case up to Ms. Cielo. 

 Huge thanks to Ms. Cielo Villaluna and her colleagues she worked with –  Chiqui de la Merced, Asst. Sales and Services manager for Metro Manila and Luzon, and her staff assistant Karren Togado- to make the airfare price bearable.

 Bearable is, in fact, an understatement as we were, in my estimate, actually charged a miniscule of what Customer Service previously came up with.

 It was like getting a slap on the wrist for a violation. 

 Earlier, I had a series of email engagements with PAL customer service but the back and forth was fruitless. 

 I was about to give up and began scouring the web for budget fares offered by other airlines. I found several pretty good ones, incredibly low-priced, but the big BUT is you got to hibernate at stopover airports for 48 hours or more. 

 Next thing I know, I was with Rolly Gonzalo. 

 Rolly,  in whose Broadcasters’ media Forum Ms. Villaluna occasionally guested, called her up and he let her know of my plight. 

 After a few minutes, he passed the phone to me and, to say the least, I was impressed how fast PAL’s beautiful frontline lady, in her mellow and sympathetic voice, grappled with my problem and assessed it while explaining how airfares go up that she said are ofttimes occasioned by events beyond the airline’s control, aside from penalty fees, as in my case.

 I really appreciate Ms. Villaluna’s efforts, along with Chiqui and Karren, that resulted in saving a lot from our wallet, or what’s left of it. 

 Actually, the wallet was near depletion because of our extended vacation that made our budget stretched out. My wife who was always on guard, expense-wise, was on her toes.